Huge chunks of ice from Greenland are thawing at an alarming speed and already started contributing significantly to the rise of sea level according to a new study. As the island would lose much more due to global warming, it poses a threat to coastal cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Tokyo and Mumbai from around the world.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday disclosed the new figure reconstructing Greenland’s mass balance by comparing ice lost to gained snowfall over the period of the past 46 years.
As per the results, Greenland has increased sea level by 13.7 millimeters since 1972 which is nearly half during the last eight years. The global sea levels would rise by more than 20 feet if the ice in Greenland were to melt completely.
Eric Rignot, study author and Earth systems scientist for the University of California at Irvine and NASA reported the findings to The Washington Post and repeatedly reminded the activists’ urgency starting from the Sunrise Movement to Extinction Rebellion demanding immediate action of government on climate change.
“If we do something now, it will take 30 years to affect the climate and another few decades to turn the meltdown of glaciers, so probably half of that signal is already written in stone,” Rignot said. “But the impact sea level will have on humanity increases with every 10 [centimeters] of sea-level rise, and right now we are about to commit to multi-meter sea-level rise in the coming century if we don’t do something drastic.”
The ice discharged from Greenland’s glaciers into the ocean was 51 billion tons from 1980 to 1990 and 286 billion tons from 2010 to 2018.
This study also found that Greenland’s ice loss started exceeding its natural variability in the 1980s.
“As glaciers will continue to speed up and ice/snow melt from the top, we can foresee a continuous increase in the rate of mass loss, and a contribution to sea level rise that will continue to increase more rapidly every year,” Rignot explained.
“When you look at several decades, it is best to sit back in your chair before looking at the results, because it is a bit scary to see how fast it is changing,” Rignot told AFP.
The impact also falls on Greenland’s colder north due to the ice loss as per the research.
“The entire periphery of Greenland is affected. I am particularly concerned about the northern regions, which host the largest amount of potential sea-level rise and are already changing fast,” Rignot told The Washington Post.
The recent study which follows the previous one published in January, co-written by Rignot disclosed that there was also a six-fold increase in the ice loss in Antarctica in the past 40 years.
As per the AFP report, three kinds of data were used by the researchers to decipher the process of Greenland’s ice loss.
- The measurement of Glacier altitude by satellite that lowers with ice loss.
- NASA’s satellite measurement of the gravitational pull of glaciers that tends to reduce with ice loss.
- The difference calculated using models of ice loss and snow accumulation to identify the changes.
“This is an excellent piece of work by a well-established research group using novel methods to extract more information from the available data,” Colin Summerhayes of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, who was not involved with the study, told AFP.
If no immediate action is taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the trend the researchers calculated in this study will continue. According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, the season of Greenland summer melt has already begun, a month earlier than usual, CNN reported.
“We ought to be prepared for this and also take urgent action to slow down the melt down,” Rignot asserted.