New Study Shows Just How Frighteningly Fast Greenland Is Melting

James Marshall
December 7, 2018

The researchers also warned that Greenland, which locks up the equivalent of around 30ft (7m) of sea level rise, is becoming more sensitive to warming than it was in the past.

Co-author Dr Sarah Das, said: 'From a historical perspective, today's melt rates are off the charts, and this study provides the evidence to prove this.

Greenland's massive ice sheets contain enough water to raise global sea levels by 23 feet, and a new study shows that they are melting at a rate "unprecedented" over centuries - and likely thousands of years.

Dr Trusel said: "We see melting and runoff from Greenland start ticking up as warming initiated in the Arctic in the 1800s, but only in the last few decades has it really accelerated to levels we haven't seen before in the last few centuries".

While the researchers were able to demonstrate their ice core melt record was generally applicable across of Greenland by correlating recent history with satellite records and model predictions, the southeastern margin is one area where an independent core would help verify trends.

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

'We found a 50 per cent increase in total ice sheet meltwater runoff since the start of the industrial era, and a 30 per cent increase since the 20th century alone'. "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", said Trusel.

The cores of the drilling contained records of past melts, which allowed the scientists to extend their records back to the 17th century.

During warm summer days in Greenland, melting occurs across much of the ice sheet surface.

But at higher elevations the summer meltwater quickly refreezes from contact with the below-freezing snowpack sitting underneath, preventing it from escaping the ice sheet in the form of runoff.

Commenting on the report, Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate change at the World Wildlife Fund said: "If governments don't radically up their green ambitions, we're facing a future without coral reefs or Arctic summer ice, where food shortages, floods and fires are part of our everyday reality".

"The melting is not just increasing - it's accelerating", Trusel told Nature.

The rapid rise in surface melting over the last two decades in particular suggests a "non-linear" response to rising temperatures, meaning as global warming progresses this melting could greatly accelerate, contributing more and more to rising sea levels.

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.

This research was funded by the US National Science Foundation, institutional support from Rowan University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the US Department of Defense, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the Netherlands Earth System Science Center, and the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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