'Off the charts': Scientists sound alarm over Greenland ice melt

06 Décembre, 2018, 20:40 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Melting of Greenland’s ice is ‘off the charts,’ study shows

Co-author Dr Sarah Das, said: 'From a historical perspective, today's melt rates are off the charts, and this study provides the evidence to prove this.

According to the analysis, melting on the Greenland ice sheet sped up in the mid-1800s, shortly after the onset of industrial-era warming in the Arctic.

To determine how the Greenland ice had melted, researchers used a drill to extract ice cores.

Greenland's ice sheet is melting at a faster rate than previously thought and continued global warming will accelerate thawing and contribute to rising sea levels, scientists said in a paper published on Wednesday.

The researchers warned that their findings also showed that it would only take a little additional warming to cause ice sheet melting to spike and sea levels to rise.

The research is the first continuous, multi-century analysis of melting and runoff on the ice sheet, one of the largest drivers of sea level rise globally.

The magnitude of Greenland ice sheet melting is "exceptional" over at least the last 350 years and continued growth of global average temperature will accelerate the melting and contribute to sea level rise, the study said.

"As a result, Greenland melt is adding to sea level more than any time during the last three and a half centuries, if not thousands of years", Luke Trusel, a glaciologist at Rowan University's School of Earth & Environment and former postdoctoral scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said in a statement.

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Total ice sheet melt-water runoff had increased 50% compared with the start of the industrial era, and had seen a 30% increase since the 20th century alone, she said.

While huge chunks of ice popping off Greenland's margins get more attention, the steady runoff of water from its surface is now the largest contributor to Greenland's rapid slim-down.

"And increasing melt began around the same time as we started altering the atmosphere in the mid-1800s".

But at higher elevations the summer meltwater quickly refreezes from contact with the below-freezing snowpack sitting underneath, preventing it from escaping the ice sheet in the form of runoff.

Instead, it forms distinct icy bands that stack up in layers of densely packed ice over time.

Commenting on the report, Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate change at the World Wildlife Fund said: "If governments don't radically up their green ambitions, we're facing a future without coral reefs or Arctic summer ice, where food shortages, floods and fires are part of our everyday reality".

"What our ice cores show is that Greenland is now at a state where it's much more sensitive to further increases in temperature than it was even 50 years ago".

And without a huge change of direction, Greenland "will melt more and more for every degree of warming", Mr Trusel warned.

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