Discover the Rapid Decline of Thousands of Greenland’s Glaciers Through Stunning Before-and-After Photos

Danish Castle Photos Reveal Alarming Rate of Greenland Melting

When Laura Larocca visited Denmark in 2019, the climate scientist meticulously sorted through thousands of old aerial photographs of Greenland’s icy coastline. These images, rediscovered in a castle outside Copenhagen about 15 years ago, now reside in the Danish National Archives.

Intrigued by the historical images, Larocca and her colleagues embarked on the mission of reconstructing the territory’s glacial history. They sought to understand how it has evolved amid a rapidly warming climate. The team digitized thousands of archived paper images dating back to the 1930s and compared them with satellite images of Greenland today. The objective was to measure the extent of change in its frozen landscape.

Their study, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, revealed that Greenland’s glaciers have experienced a distressing rate of retreat. The glacial retreat during the 21st century has been found to be twice as fast as that in the 20th century.

Laura Larocca, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor at Arizona State University School of Ocean Futures, emphasized the labor-intensive effort that went into this work. She remarked on the stunning nature of the change in the Arctic, highlighting the urgency of warming and change.

The Arctic’s rate of warming is a concerning four times faster than the rest of the world, as revealed by a 2022 study. This accelerated warming is leading to unprecedented events, such as rainfall at the summit of Greenland during the summer of 2021 and the destabilization of northern Greenland’s glaciers.

Larocca marveled at how the Danish pilots who originally took the photos never anticipated their significant role in climate science almost a century later. These photos, initially taken during military operations, now serve as crucial documentation of glacier change.

Larocca hopes that the new visual-heavy study will garner attention to the rapidly melting territory, underscoring the threat it poses to the world’s coastlines as sea levels rise. She stressed the importance of reducing emissions to mitigate the significant consequences for these glaciers and limit their future loss.

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