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


Colgan, William; Machguth, Horst; MacFerrin, Mike; Colgan, Jeff D; van As, Dirk; MacGregor, Joseph A (2016). The abandoned ice sheet base at Camp Century, Greenland, in a warming climate. Geophysical Research Letters, 43(15):8091-8096.

Abstract

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.

Abstract

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.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:19 Sep 2016 13:10
Last Modified:02 Feb 2018 10:23
Publisher:American Geophysical Union
ISSN:0094-8276
Additional Information:Copyright 2016 American Geophysical Union
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/2016GL069688

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