Climate change: Greenland's ice is melting faster than expected

11 Décembre, 2019, 01:40 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • A new study shows that Greenland's ice sheet is melting at a faster rate

A new study shows that Greenland's ice sheet is melting at a faster rate. This study condenses the available data and provides a consensus view regarding Greenland's ice loss - enabling more accurate projections of future sea rise to be made. All that ice making its way into the ocean has already caused the sea level to rise by more than a centimetre, and future sea level rise will mean lots more coastal flooding.

Researchers forecast sea levels could rise by 76cm (26 inches) by the end of the century unless measures are taken to reduce the effects of global warming. On August 1, Greenland's ice sheet lost 12.5 billions tons of ice, more than any day since researchers started recording ice loss in 1950. According to the measurements, approximately 4 trillion tons of ice has been melted since 1992 and the water level has increased by 10.6 millimeters.

Professor Shepherd said: "As a rule of thumb, for every centimetre rise in global sea level another six million people are exposed to coastal flooding around the planet".

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Previous satellite-based studies describe Greenland and Antarctica ice sheet losses and their contribution to global sea-level rise over recent decades.

The scale and speed of ice loss is much higher than was predicted in the comprehensive studies of global climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, according to the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-Comparison Exercise, a consortium of almost 100 polar scientists who reviewed all satellite observations of the ice sheet from 1992 to 2018.

"These are not unlikely events or small impacts; they are happening and will be devastating for coastal communities", he added.

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Scientists didn't expect to see Greenland melt at this rate for another 50 years: By the last week of July, the melting had reached levels that scientists with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had projected for the year 2070, in the most pessimistic scenario.

Ice losses peaked at 335 billion tonnes per year in 2011 - ten times the rate of the 1990s - during a period of intense surface melting.

Yearly ice loss has since dropped to an average of 262 billions tons, though Shepherd and his co-authors noted that this average does not include 2019's unusually hot summer.

"Our project is a great example of the importance of worldwide collaboration to tackle problems that are global in scale". Sea level rises are driven not only by melting ice but by the thermal expansion of the seas as they warm.

"The IMBIE Team's reconciled estimate of Greenland ice loss is timely for the IPCC".

The group of scientists reanalyzed data from 11 satellite missions flown from 1992 to 2018 - looking at repeat messurements of the ice sheet's thickness, flow and gravity, BBC News reports. If glacier speeds remain high, 2019 could be a record year for total ice loss from Greenland.

"In Greenland, accounting for weather is a challenge too, as hot summers like 2012 and 2019 are hard to predict as they are elsewhere on the planet", Shepherd added. This is totally different from the floating sea ice that makes up much of the rest of the Arctic ice cap.

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