Greenland Ice Sheet Melting Faster Than Ever, Reacting Even With Minimal Warming

Melting of Greenland’s ice is ‘off the charts,’ study shows

If Greenland melts entirely, the seawater will increase by about 23 feet, with a damaging impact to the Earth. "The melting and sea level rise we've observed already will be dwarfed by what may be expected in the future as climate continues to warm", Trusel said.

It seems that icebergs which are calving into the ocean from the edge of glaciers are one component of the water re-entering the ocean and this way rising the sea levels. The melting and freezing cycle also makes ice below the surface less permeable, so more runoff is shunted to the ocean rather than trickling down into the ice sheet.

The core samples collected by the researchers were sent to the ice core labs in the US where scientist determined the age and thickness of the melt layers. If anyone wonders why the cores were drilled at such a high elevation - it is because the cores would contain records of past melt intensity, dating back to the 17th century. "We demonstrate that Greenland ice is more sensitive to warming today than in the past - it responds non-linearly due to positive feedbacks inherent to the system".

Ice loss from Greenland is one of the biggest drivers of global sea level rise and threatens to cause devastating floods that could displace millions from their homes in coastal areas across the globe.

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. This frozen meltwater creates distinct ice bands that pile up over years to form layers of densely packed ice. A 2016 analysis using satellite-derived gravity data found Greenland lost a trillion tons of ice between 2011 and 2014. Dark bands running horizontally across the cores, like ticks on a ruler, enabled the scientists to visually chronicle the strength of melting at the surface from year to year.

Today, these rates are "off the charts", said glaciologist Sarah Das, who is a co-author of the study, published this week in the journal Nature.

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In General, noted a fifty percent increase in the total volume of melt water in the ice cover since the start of the industrial era.

Study co-author Matt Osman, a graduate student, said: "We have had a sense that there's been a great deal of melting in recent decades, but we previously had no basis for comparison with melt rates going further back in time".

Because of a "nonlinear response of surface melting to increasing summer air temperatures, continued atmospheric warming will lead to rapid increases in [Greenland ice sheet] runoff and sea-level contributions", the study said.

At lower elevations, meltwater simply runs off the ice sheet, but at higher elevations some percolates down through porous, compacted snow called firn before refreezing to form layers not unlike the growth layers found in trees.

In the wake of October's dire report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warning that civilization has just more than a decade to stave off climate catastrophe, Thursday's report spells more bad news for the planet, especially the millions of people living near the world's oceans.

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