North Pole Moves: Is Melting Ice The Cause Of Polar Shift?
The North Pole moves ever so slightly every year, but recently, the polar ice cap changed directions and is now inching its way towards Greenland at an unprecedented pace. According to Nature News, more than 90 percent of the polar shift is a result of Earth's ice loss and the subsequent sea-level rise.
Melting ice allows giants sheets of ice, which are buoyant, to shift by adding water to the oceans. Live Science reports that the North Pole's reeling towards Greenland is largely due to Earth's rapidly melting ice sheets, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Texas.
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The new study, published May 13 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, proves that the rapid melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, a body of ice about 660,000 square miles that covers 80 percent of the surface of Greenland, caused the pole to start slipping east. According to the study, Greenland is the number one contributor to the North Pole's change in direction.
Nature reports that the North Pole has never been a stagnant fixture on Earth's surface. Rather, the poles shift seasonally with Earth's elastic snow, rain and humidity conditions. Between 1982 and 2005, the pole was on the move towards Labrador, Canada, headed southeast at a rate of about 6 centimeters a year.
But in 2005, the North Pole pivoted east, and is now headed towards Greenland at a rate of about 21 centimeters a year. From Nature:
Underlying the seasonal motion is a yearly motion that is thought to be driven in part by continental drift. It was the change in that motion that caught the attention of Chen and his colleagues, who used data collected by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) to determine whether ice loss had shifted and accelerated the yearly polar drift.
According to Scientific American, the size of the Arctic ice cap, which scientists started mapping with satellites back in 1979, has been shrinking. In 2005, the ice cap covered 2.05 million square miles and was, at the time, the smallest ice cap size on record. Then, in 2007, the ice cap measured only 1,59 million square miles, a loss equivalent to the size of California and Texas combined.
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