A Cold Case on Greenland’s Glaciers Warms Up With New Evidence


UCLA led-research shows Earth may be approaching a carbon dioxide threshold for melting ice in the Arctic

It may not rank among the all-time greatest dramas, but the history of ice on Greenland has been a source of scientific controversy for more than a decade.

A study led by UCLA climate scientist Aradhna Tripati appears to put the debate to rest, with major implications for future research across a range of disciplines, from climate science to geology. The paper, which is published today in the journal Nature Communications, also sheds light on how global climate may change as people continue emitting greenhouse gases, revealing a potential tipping point: atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations of 500 parts per million or more. Beyond that threshold, major ice sheets at both poles could melt significantly. Current levels are near 400 parts per million.

For years, the prevailing belief was that glaciers first appeared on Greenland between 5 million and 11 million years ago. Then, in 2005, Tripati authored a study suggesting the ice had been present there much earlier: about 35 to 40 million years ago.

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Image via Drew Avery