In just eight years between 2010 and 2018 the island shed 286 billion tons of ice.
Greenland is set to live up to its name, which was once bestowed on it by the Vikings, by turning more and more green. But that is not necessarily a good thing at all. The giant, sparsely populated island, which is famous for its inhospitable climate and terrains, is losing its ice covering at an accelerating pace.
Greenland has the second largest ice sheet on the planet, but the island has been losing much of its ice in recent decades. In fact, there has been a six-fold increase in the loss of ice on Greenland because of climate change.
That is according to the authors of a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Based on their estimates, the authors say that 260 of Greenland’s glaciers released 51 billion tons of ice into the ocean between 1980 and 1990. Yet by between 2010 and 2018 the island had been shedding 286 billion tons. In effect, nearly 14 millimeters of all sea level rises since 1972 has been caused by melting ice from Greenland. To make matters worse, half of that melt took place in this decade.
And it is likely that worse is yet to come. If thick ice sheets in major glaciers in Greenland’s far northwest and northeast by the Arctic ocean were to start melting fast as well, the sea level globally would begin to rise even more rapidly. “The entire periphery of Greenland is affected [by climate change],” says Eric Rignot, an author of the study is an Earth-systems scientist for NASA. “I am particularly concerned about the northern regions, which host the largest amount of potential sea level rise and are already changing fast,” he adds.
“At the leading edges of glaciers, large pieces of ice frequently break off in spectacular fashion, causing ‘icequake’ events that can be detected across the globe,” notes the Washington Post. “But much of the ice loss is far less dramatic, consisting of a steady melt that pours out in streams on the ice sheet’s surface, but also in the form of undersea flows, a process that may be partly fed by the sudden disappearance of meltwater lakes on Greenland’s surface.”
Nor is the phenomenon of accelerating ice melt limited to Greenland. “In Antarctica, some big sleeping giants in East Antarctica are waking up, in addition to a large part of West Antarctica being significantly affected. None of this is good news,” Rignot warns. “We ought to prepare ourselves for what is coming up and take action as soon as possible to avoid the most drastic scenarios.”