Global Warming May Reveal a Secret Nuclear Base | HowStuffWorks NOW


During the 1960s, the US built a secret nuclear base under the ice of Greenland. Anthropogenic climate change may reveal it to the world. It’s the Cold War versus Global Warming! Let’s backtrack. In the late 1950s, US diplomats worked with Denmark officials to create a scientific city under Greenland’s icecap. It was called Camp Century. Scientists there would drill down into the ice, retrieve core samples and learn lots of scientific-y things. And that totally did happen! The US Corps of Army Engineers began excavating the site in 1959. They built the research center eight meters beneath the ice. But what Denmark and the rest of the world didn’t know was that Camp Century was the tip of the ice, uh, cap. The real experiment was more a bit more militaristic.

It was called Project Iceworm. The engineers created a network of tunnels beneath the ice that, collectively, measured about 4,000 kilometers. The goal was to install about 600 nuclear ballistic missiles under the ice, well within striking distance of Moscow. They planned to mount missile launch pads on tracks so that they could move the missiles to different launch locations within the base. But the engineers concluded that Greenland’s ice shifted too frequently, which made a nuclear launch facility impractical. By 1967, they canceled the project. The departing soldiers took the base’s nuclear generator but left behind pretty much everything else. Unfortunately, that included hazardous material like chemical, biological and nuclear waste. Since its construction, more than 25 meters of new ice has formed on top of Project Iceworm. But global warming is poised to reverse this trend.

If the Earth continues to warm at its current rate, it won’t be long before the ice melts in Greenland are greater than the annual snow it receives. By 2090, the exposure of the facility would be irreversible, according to research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Now if this were just a story about a secret military base, the US might walk away a bit embarrassed. But the presence of that hazardous waste complicates matters considerably. There’s a real danger that it could cause massive environmental damage. Right now, no one has stepped up to handle the issue. On a related note, it was at Camp Century that paleo climatologist Willi Dansgaard proved that ice cores contain a record of Earth’s past in them. By examining ice cores, you can track major trends and changes on Earth, including shifts in climate or massive volcanic activity. Climatologists rely on ice cores to gather data for their climate computer simulations. Seems fitting.

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