The map of Greenland will have to be redrawn. A new island has appeared off its coast, suddenly separated from the mainland by the melting of Greenland’s enormous ice sheet, a development that is being seen as the most alarming sign of global warming.
Several miles long, the island was once thought to be the tip of a peninsula halfway up Greenland’s remote east coast but a glacier joining it to the mainland has melted away completely, leaving it surrounded by sea.
The US Geological Survey has confirmed its existence with satellite photos, that show it as an integral part of the Greenland coast in 1985, but linked by only a small ice bridge in 2002, and completely separate by the summer of 2005. It is now a striking island of high peaks and rugged rocky slopes plunging steeply to a sea dotted with icebergs.
A study last year by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology showed that, rather than just melting relatively slowly, the ice sheet is showing all the signs of a mechanical break-up as glaciers slip ever faster into the ocean, aided by the “lubricant” of meltwater forming at their base. As the meltwater seeps down it lubricates the bases of the “outlet” glaciers of the ice sheet, causing them to slip down surrounding valleys towards the sea,
The creation of Warming Island appears to be entirely consistent with the disintegrating ice sheet, coming about when the glacier bridge linking it to the mainland simply disappeared. It was discovered by Mr Schmitt, a 60-year-old explorer from Berkeley, California, who has known Greenland for 40 years, during a trip he led up the remote coastline.
According to the US Geological Survey: “More islands like this may be discovered if the Greenland Ice Sheet continues to disappear.”
If the warming of Greenland continues apace don’t be surprised to find UK second home investors piling in for a bargain.