Greenland: Where Towering Icebergs Raise Sea Levels

Scientists and tourists visit a glacier threatened by global warming.

ByABC News
September 9, 2007, 9:57 PM

Sept. 9, 2007— -- Scientists packed the C-130 taking us to Greenland the vast and wild land that now attracts ice experts from many countries to assess the danger of global warming.

The Jakobshavn glacier and ice fjord at Ilulissat, jammed with towering icebergs, are breathtaking to see, but scientists report they are now pouring out some 20 million tons of frozen water into the ocean every day.

It is helping to raise sea levels at a rate scientists say could devastate the homes and properties of hundreds of millions of people on the world's coastlines by mid-century.

As climate experts become more and more familiar here, some Greenlanders also hope that global warming will bring them a lot more tourists.

It's clearly beginning to, and one local tour guide and shop owner overflows with stories about global warming:

"I never seen, like now, the last six, seven years, the bay doesn't frozen no more. No more ice," Silverio Scivoli, owner of Tourist Nature, told us over a cup of hot tea in the back of his shop.

He showed us satellite photos depicting the long retreat of the Jakobshavn glacier, which has been pulling back since the industrial revolution accelerated the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

"In 1850, the glacier was here. Now, we are down here," Scivoli said.

Now, the glacier is melting even faster. It has retreated nine miles in only the last five years.

An Italian couple visiting Ilulissat told us global warming spurred them to visit this remote land.

"We were afraid this could disappear in the next years, and so, we wanted to see it," Roberta Romagnolo told us, looking out over the iceberg-packed outlet of the Jakobshavn ice fjord.

Local fishermen in the Ilulissat harbor told us the icebergs coming down the fjord from the Jakobshavn glacier are not as huge as they used to be, and stream past much more quickly now.

It is anecdotal evidence that dovetails exactly with data compiled by scientists trying to understand the effect of global warming on Greenland's ice sheet.