Science

Researchers calculate decades of 'scary' Greenland ice melting

Researchers calculate decades of 'scary' Greenland ice melting”

To calculate how much ice Greenland has lost since 1972, an worldwide team of researchers compiled a variety of data sources, including elevation records, gravity readings, satellite images and more.

The speed of losing ice has reportedly increased by nearly six times, and this could trigger a future sea level rise, says a new study that's based on about a half-century of data. The findings of the study explain the contribution of Greenland's ice melt to global sea level rise.

He said that shift is worrisome in part because of what it portends for the future, especially when combined with potential ice loss in Antarctica.

Besides this, Antarctica is losing six times as much ice as it was four decades ago from the East and West side that are significantly affected.

The first method makes use of satellites that measure altitude with a laser. It's impressive to see a big glacier calve and break away, but most of the time, the melting is far less dramatic - a steady melt and drip over the (still) glacial surface.

A second technique involves measuring variations in gravity, as ice loss can be detected through a decrease in gravitational pull.

Thirdly, scientists have developed so-called mass balance models, which compare mass accumulated (rain and snow) with mass lost (ice river discharges) to calculate what is left.

The research team used these models to "go back in time" and reconstruct Greenland's ice levels in the 1970s and 1980s. The limited data available in these periods such as aerial photos, medium-quality satellite photos, ice cores, and other observations helped refine scientists' calculations.

The online publication continues and writes that the result is that out of almost 14 millimeters of sea level rise in total caused by Greenland since 1972, half of it has taken place in just the last eight years, according to the researchers' data.

"When you look at several decades, it is best to sit back in your chair before looking at the results, because it is a bit scary to see how fast it is changing", said French glaciologist Eric Rignot, of the University of California at Irvine. In the 1980s, Greenland then lost an equivalent volume. About the causes that are determining the changes, we can mention the warmer temperatures that are melting more ice on Greenland and the more temperate Atlantic Ocean waters that are reaching the glaciers. Ice losses in the 1990s were about 41 billion tons per year, but by the 2000s they were 187 billion tons - and by the 2010s, 286 billion tons.

Rignot co-authored the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), with colleagues in California, Grenoble, Utrecht and Copenhagen. The famed Jakobshavn glacier, for instance, lost 323 billion tons during the time period, contributing almost 1 millimeter of sea level rise on its own.

"But the impact sea level will have on humanity increases with every 10 [centimeters] of sea level rise, and right now we are about to commit to multi-meter sea level rise in the coming century if we don't do something drastic".



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