ABOARD THE HDMS THETIS, Greenland (AP) — Sailing through fields of large icebergs aboard a Danish naval vessel, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brought his tour of the Arctic to Greenland on Friday, visiting the Northern Hemisphere’s largest glacier to bring attention to the dangers of climate change.
Hazarding a brief June snow and hail flurry in Disko Bay off Greenland’s third largest city of Ilulissat, population 4,500, some 220 miles (350 kilometers) north of the Arctic Circle, Kerry was meeting with scientists researching the dramatic erosion of the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier that is contributing to global sea rise. The icecap has receded 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) since 2001, with a large increase since 2002.
A number of factors, including increasing air temperatures, the rise of black carbon emissions that discolor the ice and make it absorb more heat, and the introduction of warm sub-surface water from the Gulf Stream which erodes the ice sheet from below, have all contributed to the retreat of the glacier, which is the most active outside Antarctica in terms of iceberg production.
“There is profound change throughout the Arctic region,” said Kerry, clad in a green thermal parka and aviator sunglasses as Her Danish Majesty’s Ship Thetis cruised around the bay. “There are combined forces having this impact, but we also know that human beings, by the choices we are making to provide our power, our energy, are having a profound negative impact. There is a gigantic transformation taking place.”