When the builders of Camp Century began storing waste in Greenland’s ice sheet, they had every reason to rest easy. Snow and ice would continue to accumulate, sealing the Cold War military base in an icy tomb—or so they thought. But the builders failed to foresee that one day, those frigid layers could instead start melting.
A 2016 study published in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that by the end of the 21st Century, the scale could tilt in the favor of ice loss instead of buildup. The crust of snow and ice above the former base could begin to melt away by the end of the century, eventually leading to the exposure of waste that has been buried for decades. If net ablation—the thinning of ice due to evaporation, melting, and wind—occurs, the ice will cease to be a reliable repository.