NASA oceanographer Josh Willis and his team are studying how the ice is attacked not only by rising air temperatures, but also by the warming ocean that eats away from below.
A converted World War II DC-3 The aircraft, now called the BT-57 Basler, carries a group of OMG researchers to the Greenland coast. From the air, crewmembers fire special probes through the ice floor, which then transmit temperature and salinity data to determine possible sea-level rises and their future relevance to humanity.
"There is enough ice in Greenland to raise the sea level by 7.5 meters, that's about 25 feet, a huge volume of ice, and that would be devastating to coasts all over the planet," said Willis. "We should already withdraw from the coast if we look at many meters in the next one or two centuries [lost]."
NASA took CNN on a dramatic flight over Helheim ̵
When our plane approached Helheim, scientists discovered an ice-free "lake" at the very front of the glacier, which they do not supposedly see often. The probes also returned worrying data – Helheim was surrounded by warm water in all its depth, more than 2,000 feet below the surface.
"It's very rare that there are 700 meters in the world without temperature fluctuations, and we normally find colder water in the upper one hundred meters, but right in front of the glacier it's all the way warm," said Ian Fenty, climatologist at NASA. "This warm water can now be in direct contact with the ice over its entire surface and charge the melt."
"It pulls back many feet a day, it's ten feet a day, and you can probably put your iPhone in fast motion and see how it passes," Willis says as the data flashes on his phone screen.
"Greenland is having an impact around the world, with one billion tonnes of ice lost here raising sea levels in Australia, Southeast Asia, the United States and Europe," said Willis. "We're all connected by the same ocean."
And the OMG is just one of the projects looking at our home planet, which NASA has increased in recent decades. As the NASA Geosciences budget increases, the agency plans to launch at least two new natural-hazard satellite tracking and exploration programs.