Basic science: understanding numbers
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.

Free course

Basic science: understanding numbers

2.4.1 Density of the Greenland ice sheet

This is an illustration of Greenland.
Figure 8 What would happen if this much ice were to melt?

Since density is the amount of mass in a given volume, it follows that the mass of an object can be calculated if you know the density and the volume. We have already estimated the volume of the Greenland ice sheet previously. It turned out to be 2,565,000 km3. The density of ice is 917 kg/m3, so you can now calculate the mass of ice.

If you start with just one cubic kilometre: 1 km3 contains 1,000,000,000 (or 1 × 109, or a billion) cubic metres, each with a mass of 917 kilograms, so 1 km3 weighs 917,000,000,000 kg. This can also be written, you remember, as 9.17 × 1011 kg. This is the mass of each cubic kilometre of ice.

But there are 2,565,000 cubic kilometres of ice in the ice sheet, so you must multiply your answer by this number to get the total. 2,565,000 × 917,000,000,000 gives us a value of 2,352,105,000,000,000,000, or in scientific notation, 2.35 × 1018 kg of ice.

Skip Your course resources
BSCI_2

Take your learning further371

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses372.

If you are new to university level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. Find out Where to take your learning next?373 You could either choose to start with an Access courses374or an open box module, which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification.

Not ready for University study then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn375 and sign up to our newsletter376 to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371