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Greenland’s Ice Melting Faster Than Expected: Study

Researchers say the accelerated ice loss is caused by a combination of global warming, as well as the North Atlantic oscillation.

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Greenland
The Greenland ice sheet is seen in southeastern Greenland, Aug. 3, 2017. VOA

Ice in Greenland is melting faster than previously thought, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study found that most of Greenland’s rapid ice depletion is from a surprising source — land that is largely devoid of glaciers.

The land in question is from Greenland’s ice sheet itself, which is 10,000 feet thick in places.

Scientists previously focused most of their studies on Greenland’s glaciers, in the southeast and northwest regions of the country, and found that the glaciers have increasingly been dislodging chucks into the ocean.

However, scientists in the newly published study say they realize there is another major source of ice melt, in the country’s southwest region, which is mostly devoid of large glaciers.

Greenland
FILE – An iceberg is seen melting off the coast of Ammasalik, Greenland, July 19, 2007. VOA

They say this suggests that the surface ice is simply melting as global temperatures rise.

“We knew we had one big problem with increasing rates of ice discharge by some large outlet glaciers,” said Michael Bevis, lead author of the paper and a professor of geodynamics at Ohio State University. “But now we recognize a second serious problem — increasingly, large amounts of ice mass are going to leave as meltwater, as rivers that flow into the sea.”

Researchers say the ice rate loss across Greenland has increased four-fold since 2003, which they say will lead to a greater sea level rise.

In the 20th century, Greenland has lost around 9,000 billion tons of ice in total, causing about 25 millimeters (1 inch) of sea level rise, according to National Geographic.

Scientists say if all of Greenland’s vast ice sheet were to melt, global sea levels would rise by 7 meters (23 feet) , flooding most coastal developments around the world.

Personnel stand aboard the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as it arrives into Nuuk, Greenland, after traversing the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, July 29, 2017.
Personnel stand aboard the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as it arrives into Nuuk, Greenland, after traversing the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, July 29, 2017. VOA

The latest study used data from NASA satellites, as well as GPS stations across Greenland, to analyze changes in ice mass.

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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 much larger neighbor, the Antarctic ice sheet, is also losing ice faster than previously thought, according to a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That study, published earlier this month, found that Antarctic melting has raised global sea levels 1.4 centimeters between 1979 and 2017. (VOA)

Next Story

Ice Loss in Antarctica and Greenland Increasing at an Alarming Rate: Scientists

Greenland, Antarctica ice loss accelerating

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Ice loss
Earth's great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, were now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s due to warming conditions. Pixabay

Earth’s great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, were now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s due to warming conditions, the media reported on Thursday citing scientists as saying.

A comprehensive review of satellite data acquired at both poles was unequivocal in its assessment of accelerating trends, the BBC quoted the scientists as saying.

Between them, Greenland and Antarctica lost 6.4 trillion tonnes of ice in the period from 1992 to 2017.

Ice loss
The combined rate of ice loss for Greenland and Antarctica was running at about 81 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s. Pixabay

This was sufficient to push up global sea-levels up by 17.8 mm, the scientists added. “That’s not a good news story,” said Professor Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds.

“Today, the ice sheets contribute about a third of all sea-level rise, whereas in the 1990s, their contribution was actually pretty small at about 5 per cent. This has important implications for the future, for coastal flooding and erosion,” he told BBC News.

The researcher co-leads a project called the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise, or Imbie, which is a team of experts who have reviewed polar measurements acquired by observational spacecraft over nearly three decades.

The Imbie team’s studies have revealed that ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland were actually heading to much more pessimistic outcomes, and will likely add another 17 cm to those end-of-century forecasts.

“If that holds true it would put 400 million people at risk of annual coastal flooding by 2100,” Professor Shepherd told the BBC.

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The combined rate of loss for Greenland and Antarctica was running at about 81 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s.

By the 2010s, it had climbed to 475 billion tonnes per year. (IANS)