Climate Minute: Cold War era scientific study in Greenland leads to discovery of plant fossils

The find leads scientists to believe that the Greenland ice sheet is vulnerable to a warming climate

Meteorologist Sarah Spivey discusses the discovery of plant fossils deep within Greenland's ice sheet and what that means for climate change.

GREENLAND – Let’s go back a bit: it’s the 1960s and the United States and the Soviet Union are engaged in the Cold War. The US is conducting a top-secret mission in Greenland to hide 600 missiles under Greenland’s ice sheet. They call it Project Iceworm, and to conceal it, the Army claims to simply be conducting an Arctic scientific study. During the project, scientist dig mile-long cores into the ice sheet and put them into a freeze.

Project Iceworm failed, and the ice cores were shuffled around for decades until recently rediscovered. What has amazed modern-day scientists is that they found plant fossils within the ice cores.

The find was surprising, because it was thought that the ice where the sample was taken was more-or-less permanent. Instead, this suggests that the ice is more vulnerable to a warming climate.

Scientists estimate that the ice sheet could contain up to 23 feet of sea water rise in ice melt. That means that if the ice melts, it could lead to the gradual flooding of major coastal cities around the world.


About the Author:

Sarah Spivey is a San Antonio native who grew up watching KSAT. She has been a proud member of the KSAT Weather Authority Team since 2017. Sarah is a Clark High School and Texas A&M University graduate. She previously worked at KETN News. When Sarah is not busy forecasting, she enjoys hanging out with her husband and cat, and playing music.