COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Denmark is to set up seven unmanned measuring stations along the edge of Greenland's vast ice cap, to monitor how fast the frozen sheet covering the massive island is thinning, Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard announced Friday.
The move followed claims by scientists that the effects of climate change were becoming noticeable throughout Greenland, a semi-independent Danish territory.
The stations are meant to give the world a "much better picture of the effects of climate change in the Arctic, and its local, regional and global consequences," Hedegaard said.
It will be the first time such stations are placed on the edge of the ice cap, where the melting is more visible.
At least three of Greenland's largest glaciers have retracted noticeably and lakes have doubled in size in the last decades.
Off the island, the Arctic Sea ice has decreased by about 8 percent, or nearly 1 million square kilometers (386,1000 square miles). Similar observations have been made elsewhere in the region and on the South Pole.
"The climate change at the poles has an undeniable significance for life conditions on the rest of the Earth," Hedegaard said. "If the Greenland ice cap melted completely, the world's sea level would rise by 7 meters (23 feet). Consequently, there is a great need to study the melting of the Greenland ice cap."
The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, or GEUS, will start the installations around Greenland's icy edge next year, with all stations expected to be operational by 2010. The project will cost up to 5.7 million kroner (euro764.600; US$962.000).
Out of Greenland's 2.2 million square kilometers (844,000 square miles), 85 percent is covered by an ice cap up to 3,200 meters (10,560 feet) thick.
Beside measuring precipitation and wind, the stations also will measure ice pressure at the surface and 30 meter (99 feet) below.
Data will be sent by satellite every three hours to Copenhagen, where scientists will compare the results with data from similar U.S. and Dutch projects on the Greenland cap, as well as surveys by European and American satellites mapping the thickness of Greenland's ice cap.
"But unlike the Dutch and American stations, we will measure the ice on the edge, where we believe we have a better chance to establish whether there is melting going on," said Peter Gravesen, a geologist with GEUS.