Science

New Research Shows an Iceless Greenland May Be in our Future

New Research Shows an Iceless Greenland May Be in our Future”

Right now Greenland is experiencing some risky ice melting, and oceanographers and climatologists are already making alarming predictions about the consequences it could have for those living there. Instead, by 3000 Greenland may lose 8% to 25% of ice and contribute up to approximately 6.5 feet of sea level rise.

Temperatures have soared above normal levels in Greenland in recent weeks, with the annual ice melt arriving early, experts say. The island's ice sheet is the leading source of water added to the ocean every year. Today, the ice sheet covers 81% of Greenland and contains 8% of Earth's fresh water.

Outlet glaciers are in contact with water, and water makes ice melt faster than contact with air, like thawing a chicken in the sink. Environmental experts are drawing a parallel between what the future may hold and the year 2012, when, for the first time in history, nearly all of Greenland's ice sheet was had been exposed to melt.

Using these three climate change scenarios, a team of researchers led by Andy Aschwanden from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, developed a model for how Greenland will respond to warming and ran 500 computer simulations to show what could happen over the next 1,000 years.

The Himalayas, part of an area that is referred to as "The Third Pole" because it has so much ice, has only 72% of the ice that was there in 1975.

This study is the first model to include these outlet glaciers. "So the most important contributor to understanding ice flow is knowing how thick the ice is". The most severe scenario, in which emissions continue to increase at their present rate, showed more than half of the model runs losing more than 99 percent of the ice sheet by 3000. Operation IceBridge uses aircraft equipped with a full suite of scientific instruments, including three types of radar that can measure the ice surface, the individual layers within the ice and penetrate to the bedrock to collect data about the land beneath the ice.

The loss of ice means current and future disruptions of water supplies - both surges and shortages - for the hundreds of millions of people in the region who rely on it for hydropower, agriculture, and drinking, said study co-author Jorg Schaefer, a climate geochemistry professor at Columbia. "That's very simplified, but if you don't know where downhill is, the model can never do a good job".

"What we know from the last two decades of just watching Greenland is not because we were geniuses and figured it out, but because we just saw it happen", Fahnestock said. "The technology that allows improved imaging of the glacier bed is like a better pair of glasses allowing us to see more clearly".



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