Braaten, David A. Department of Geography, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.
Last reviewed:November 2019
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The world's largest island. It is a major land and ice mass in the North Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe, bounded by the Arctic Ocean to the north. The total area of Greenland is 2,166,086 km2 (836,330 mi2), or a little more than three times the size of Texas. Its most distinctive feature is an ice sheet that covers about 80% of the island like a dome, with elevations toward the center of the island exceeding 3000 m (9800 ft). The Greenland Ice Sheet is the largest ice mass in the Northern Hemisphere and is the second largest ice sheet in the world. (The Antarctic Ice Sheet is about ten times larger.) The Greenland Ice Sheet affects weather systems in the North Atlantic Ocean and northern Europe, and has the potential to affect the environment by contributing to global sea-level rise. Greenland has a total ice volume of 2,600,000 km3 (624,000 mi3) which, if melted, would cause global sea level to rise about 6 m (20 ft). Significant melting would also introduce a large volume of freshwater into the North Atlantic Ocean, which could disrupt the Gulf Stream current. Recent studies, using ice thickness measurements from airborne ice-penetrating radar and ice surface movement from satellite measurements, show accelerated ice discharge into the ocean. An example of an ice thickness profile along a flight line from the west to the east coast is shown in the illustration. See also: Arctic and subarctic islands; Arctic ocean; Glaciology; Gulf stream
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