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December 14, 2008

gMOD and Global Sea Levels

While waiting for the long-promised joint paper by Dröscher and Häuser a thought occurred about how gMOD might help resolve one of the most serious long-term threats of global warming... sea level rise and the displacement of tens of millions of people living in coastal communities.

The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second largest body of ice on the planet, surpassed only by the Antarctic Ice Sheet. It contains 2.85 million cubic kilometers of ice and is steadily losing that water through melting. It might take a couple of hundred years for the ice sheet to melt if global warming continues to increase at its current rate, but if it does the level of the oceans could rise more than twenty-three and a half feet (over seven meters).

The Greenland Ice Sheet splits off and falls into the ocean at glacial outlets by a process known as "calving". Loss of volume of the sheet has increased to 220 cubic kilometers per year.

If an implementation of gMOD can be developed that is capable of both propulsion and the ability to hoist massive amounts of weight and volumes of material, then one of the first pragmatic... and necessary... applications on Earth might be the mining of the Greenland Ice Sheet to remove the global threat posed by the melting portions of the ice sheet.

Rather than letting the glaciers melt or calve into the ocean the face of the glaciers would be mined for their ice by a technique that might best be termed as "glacial face mining", or GFM. The natural process of calving would accelerated but the mined ice would not contribute to the rise in sea levels.

The ice would be removed to areas of the globe in need of fresh water to irrigate fields, to replenish watersheds, or to refill lakes. Some of the chunks of ice could also be buried to insulate them from rapid melting, much as how kettles were formed naturally by retreating glaciers.

Similar plans to hoist tons of forestry products have been proposed using dirigibles, though the tonnages involved in mining ice sheets would be more comparable to that of mountain top removal or open pit mining. However the outcomes of glacial mining would have a much more beneficial impact on the world.

©2008 Gregory Daigle