### Become an OU student

Basic science: understanding numbers

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

# 2.3.1 Volume of the Greenland ice sheet

Previously, you were given the area for the Greenland ice sheet. To work out the volume, you will need to have an idea of how thick it is. We don’t know exactly how thick it is at every location, but you can work out a fairly good estimate.

You can work out an upper limit for the volume by knowing that it is about 3,000 m, or 3 km, thick at its thickest, so multiplying the area (1,710,000 km2) by the thickness (3 km) gives a maximum volume of 5,130,000 km3for the ice on Greenland.

But the ice is thinner in places, so what is the lower limit? At the edges of the ice sheet, the thickness of the ice tails off to a few tens of metres. If you assume a minimum thickness of 50 metres, or 0.05 km, you get a value of 1,710,000 multiplied by 0.05, or 85,500 km3 as the lowest estimate of the volume of the ice. This is still a lot of ice!

You can get a much better idea of the volume of ice, however, by using the average thickness. This has been worked out, from borehole drilling and radar measurements, to be about 1,500 m, or 1.5 km.