Greenland's ice is melting even faster than scientists thought

Pablo Tucker
January 25, 2019

This means Greenland - which wasn't previously seen as a serious threat - is likely to become a "major future contributor" to global sea level rises. When ice melts at such a rate river flow increases and thus further accelerates the rate at which ice melts.

Michael Bevis, a professor at Ohio State University and lead author of the PNAS paper, said the ice now appeared to be melting from the surface mass, "melting inland from the coastline".

Researchers say the accelerated ice loss is caused by a combination of global warming, as well as the North Atlantic oscillation, a periodic weather phenomenon that brings warmer air to western Greenland.

Greenland's ice sheet is melting far faster than previously thought and may have reached the point of no return, a team of researchers say.

These grim conclusions came in the wake of a separate study last week that made similar warnings about Antarctica.


From 2002 to 2016 Greenland lost 280 billion tons of ice a year, but these losses have been uneven: in 2003-2013, the melting has accelerated nearly four-fold, from 102 to 393 billion tons of ice per year.

But most of the ice loss from 2003 to 2013 was from Greenland's southwest region, which is largely devoid of large glaciers.

The warming of Greenland, the accelerating loss of sea ice near Greenland, and the accelerating loss of ice mass in Greenland will certainly prove very damaging to its existing ecosystems.

"This is going to cause additional sea level rise". Sometimes more than 3000 feet thick, cover a significant portion of the largest island in the world. These ice sheets have been melting at an "unprecedented" rate, 50 per cent higher than pre-industrial levels and 33 per cent above 20th-century levels.

The research paper used data from Nasa's gravity recovery and climate experiment (called Grace) and Global Positioning System stations to assess changes in ice mass across Greenland.


"These oscillations have been happening forever", Bevis added. That study, published earlier this month, found that Antarctic melting has raised global sea levels 1.4 centimeters between 1979 and 2017. In Himalayas, which have the largest number of glaciers after the polar ice caps - more than thirty thousand sq.km of the Himalayan region is covered by the glaciers - the glaciers are disappearing faster every year, said a report, with some smaller glaciers now only half the size they were in the 1960s. It's because the atmosphere is, at its baseline, warmer. "The transient warming driven by the North Atlantic Oscillation was riding on top of more sustained, global warming".

"The continent of Antarctica has been losing about 118 gigatons of ice per year since 2002, while the Greenland ice sheet has been losing an estimated 281 gigatons per year". When these enormous storm systems find warm pockets of ocean water, they intensify rapidly, making them hard to be predicted with accuracy.

The outcome of this finding is that south-west Greenland, which had not been considered a serious threat, now looks as if it will become a major future contributor to sea-level rise.

The new findings show that along with glaciers, climate scientists now need to pay close attention to Greenland's snowpacks and ice fields too. Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: "How severe does it get?"


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