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The abandoned ice sheet base at Camp Century, Greenland, in a warming climate

  • Colgan, William Lassonde School of Engineering, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada - Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, USA
  • Machguth, Horst Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland - Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
  • MacFerrin, Mike Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, USA
  • Colgan, Jeff D. Watson Institute, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
  • As, Dirk van Department of Glaciology and Climate, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • MacGregor, Joseph A. Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory (Code 615), NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA
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Published in:
  • Geophysical Research Letters. - 2016, vol. 43, no. 15, p. 8091–8096
English In 1959 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built Camp Century beneath the surface of the northwestern Greenland Ice Sheet. There they studied the feasibility of deploying ballistic missiles within the ice sheet. The base and its wastes were abandoned with minimal decommissioning in 1967, under the assumption they would be preserved for eternity by perpetually accumulating snowfall. Here we show that a transition in ice sheet surface mass balance at Camp Century from net accumulation to net ablation is plausible within the next 75 years, under a business-as-usual anthropogenic emissions scenario (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5). Net ablation would guarantee the eventual remobilization of physical, chemical, biological, and radiological wastes abandoned at the site. While Camp Century and four other contemporaneous ice sheet bases were legally established under a Danish-U.S. treaty, the potential remobilization of their abandoned wastes, previously regarded as sequestered, represents an entirely new pathway of political dispute resulting from climate change.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Géosciences
  • English
Meteorology, climatology
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