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10.10b.1a Greenland’s Tracy and Heilprin glaciers melt (1987)

1987 photograph of glaciers in Greenland, created by NASA.

United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"Greenland's Tracy and Heilprin glaciers melt," 1987 and 2017 images,

These images show the same glaciers in Greenland in 1987 (above) and in 2017 (below). Note the shrinking amount of ice as the tips of the glaciers break off into the sea. Global warming caused by burning fossil fuels has been increasing dramatically since the Industrial Revolution began in the early 1800s. Burning fossil fuels for energy — to run our cars, heat our homes, power our factories — emits greenhouse gases that help trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere. The result is rising temperatures that melt ice that has long been present in Greenland, which is part of the Arctic Circle. Scientists predict that the global sea level may be 25 inches higher by the year 2100.

Students should understand the scientific factors that cause global warming and its connection to sea level rise. This video may help: A warming climate causes land ice to melt, which turns into water that flows into the ocean, increasing its volume. The ocean and the land absorb light from the sun, unlike ice, which reflects sunlight. So, when ice in glaciers or icebergs melts, it exposes more land and ocean water to the sun. More of the sunlight is absorbed, thereby warming both the ocean and the land. The following sources will help students understand the impact of that sea level change on low-lying land areas.