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Greenlanders love that melting ice cap

By Adriana Stuijt     Dec 21, 2008 in Environment
Scientists from NASA say that Greenland's ice cap is the smallest it has been in 15 years.
But it's not seen as bad news by its 56,000 inhabitants: they expect to benefit from vast oil deposits beneath the ice and from the longer crop-growing season.
Greenland 's melting icecap means that more agricultural land is becoming available and they are headed for the good times: not only are they gaining total political independence from their traditional homeland of Denmark next year, but they are also raising a brand-new generation of crop farmers, the cob shoals are moving further north because the sea is warming up -- and the melting ice caps, they hope, will uncover the oil reserves which geologists are convinced exist beneath the ice.
Some geologists believe there might be so much oil beneath Greenland that it might even match half of the Saudi-Arabian historic oil reserves.
However the vast island's historians also sounded a note of caution, pointing to the past weather record, showing 1,500 years of wildly-fluctuating climactic changes ever since the first Viking settlers started recording these - and which are moreover confirmed in the chemcial analaysis of the deep-ice cores. Greenland had its 'little ice age' from about 1600 to the mid-18th century. And it's been warmer before.
At present its agricultural land is only 0.59% (2,340 square km) of its entire surface area. There are only 85 tractors on the entire continent-sized island - but now with rising temperatures their short growing season is expanding, they are building more greenhouses and even the most exotic crops are flourishing. Locals say that for the first time in hundreds of years, it has even become possible to raise cattle out in the open, and start dairy farms once again. The last time they were able to do this was 300 years ago or so. Also see
Back then, they were mostly nomadic hunters in what was then a desolate, ice-covered wasteland where they could survive mainly from fishing, whaling and harvesting seaweed - but their fathers already started raising livestock and now, the current generation is plowing the fields.
Greenland's interior is made up of 2.5 million cubic kilometers of ice that is also up to 3,400 meters thick in places. If this huge mass of ice melts, sea levels may rise by almost seven meters (about 23 feet) - but it could take several hundred years. Still, it could go faster: in an article in the journal Science, US researchers write that 224 cubic kilometers of ice disappeared in 2005, almost three times the annual average between 1997 and 2003.
For Greenland's fortunate new farmers, this means more locally-produced food and less reliance on more expensive food imported for the most part from their historic homeland of Denmark.
The biggest boost, the Greenlanders believe, is the conviction amongst geologists that there are vast supplies of oil beneath Greenland's melting ice-cap. Geologists point to widespread oil seeps in the west Source and extensive bitumen showings in the Franklinian Basin of northern Greenland Source
Greenland might well become the next Saudi-Arabia, with such vast new oil resources not yet explored.
And the gigantic island is rapidly working on gaining its political independence: in 1979, Denmark already had granted home rule to Greenland, in 2008 Greenland voted to become 'a separate country within the Kingdom of Denmark'-- effective June 2009. And they also decided to not remain in the European Union, of which they had been a member due to Denmark's membership.
Greenland is, by surface area, at the moment still the world's largest island that is not a continent in its own right. see
More about Greenland ice cap, Global warming, Agricultural growth, Uncovers oil reserves
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