Greenland Ice Sheet Melt Rate Is Much Higher Compared To Past Centuries

Katie Ramirez
December 7, 2018

The ice sheet has the potential to raise global sea levels by 23 feet if it melts in its entirety.

Runoff from Greenland's ice sheet hit a 350-year high in 2012, when it dumped-according to Nature-240 million Olympic swimming pools worth of water into the ocean.

The period of 2004-2013 had more sustained and intense melting than any other 10-year period recorded. At lower heights melt water directly runs off the ice sheet, but at escalated heights some percolates down porous compressed snow vociferated firn prior to refreezing to constitute layer not as same as the growth layers discovered in trees.

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.

Trusel's team of worldwide researchers analyzed ice cores extracted from Greenland, a massive island wedged between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.

"From a historical perspective, today's melt rates are off the charts and this study provides the evidence to prove it", said Sarah Das, a glaciologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in MA and co-author of the study. However, the melting of ice only ramped up in the past 20 to 30 years. The researchers found that the rate translated to a 50-percent increase in the runoff of meltwater into the sea compared with the preindustrial era. "So the ice sheet's response to human-caused warming has been non-linear". Instead of escaping the ice sheet, the short-lived meltwater forms icy bands that stack up layers of densely packed ice over time. The scientists drilled at these elevations to ensure the cores would contain records of past melt intensity, allowing them to extend their records back into the 17 century.

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Scientists say the amount of meltwater running off of the Greenland ice sheet has increased in modern times because of climate change, and rapid increases could be ahead.

"To be able to answer what might happen to Greenland next, we need to understand how Greenland has already responded to climate change", he said.

Das and her colleagues at Rowan University and in other places zeroed down to the conclusion by scrutinizing three ice cores from central west Greenland, and solitary from an ice cap off the coast that entail an archive of melt event traversing the past 350 years.

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.

Researchers from the MIT-WHO Joint Program, University of Washington, Wheaton College, University of Leige, Desert Research Institute, and Utrecht University also worked on the study.

The U.S. Department of Defense, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the Netherlands Earth System Science Center, and the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research also provided institutional support to the effort.

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