Greenland’s Ice Sheet is Similar in Many Ways to the Solar System’s Icy Worlds and Can Teach Us How to Search for Life

Floating ice at the calving front of Greenland's Kangerdlugssuaq glacier, photographed in 2011 during Operation IceBridge (Credit: NASA/Michael Studinger)

Many regions on Earth are temperate, nutrient-rich, stable environments where life seems to thrive effortlessly. But not all of Earth. Some parts, like Greenland’s ice sheet, are inhospitable.

In our nascent search for life elsewhere in the Solar System, it stands to reason that we’ll be looking at worlds that are marginal and inhospitable. Icy worlds like Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus are our most likely targets. These frozen worlds have warm oceans under layers of ice.

What can Greenland’s cryo-ecosystems tell us about searching for life on icy bodies like Europa and Enceladus?

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NASA Model Shows Greenland’s Ice Sheet Will Disappear Over the Next 1000 Years, Raising Sea Levels by 7 Meters

The Greenland ice sheet could be gone in a thousand years. Don't buy waterfront property. Image Credit: NASA

Great news! Humankind’s greatest-ever engineering project is nearing completion. Soon we will have warmed the Earth enough to get rid of all those pesky ice sheets and other frozen areas. The finish line is in sight.

If we all work together for the next thousand years, we’ll finally reach our goal!

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Ice loss in Greenland is Accelerating

25 years of satellite data from the European Space Agency show the rate at which Earth is losing its ice speeding up. Image Credit: ESA
25 years of satellite data from the European Space Agency show the rate at which Earth is losing its ice speeding up. Image Credit: ESA

The rate at which Greenland is losing its ice is accelerating. This unsurprising conclusion comes from a new study based on 25 years of satellite data from the European Space Agency. The new study was published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
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