Greenland’s ice loss of 600bn tons raised global sea levels by 2.2mm in just two months as last summer Arctic experienced the hottest year on record, analysis of new satellite data reveals.
The satellite data after analysis revealed the astounding loss of ice due to unnaturally high temperatures around the north pole in just a few months. Last year the Arctic experienced the hottest temperature on record, with the annual minimum extent of sea ice the second-lowest on record in the region.
The ice loss of land-based glaciers directly causes the rise of seas, unlike the retreat of sea ice posing threat to coastal cities and towns around the world. Between 2002 and 2019, scientists have calculated that Greenland’s enormous ice sheet lost an average of 268bn tons of ice, which was less than half of what was shed last summer. On the other hand, Los Angeles County has more than 10 million residents, who consume 1bn tons of water every year.
“We knew this past summer had been particularly warm in Greenland, melting every corner of the ice sheet, but the numbers are enormous,” said Isabella Velicogna, a professor of Earth system science at the University of California Irvine and lead author of the new study, which drew upon measurements taken by Nasa’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) satellite mission and its upgraded successor, Grace Follow-On.
Global heating resulting from the human-induced climate crisis is melting away glaciers around the world. Ice being reflective of sunlight when retreats the dark surfaces underneath, absorb yet more heat and cause a further acceleration in melting.
Scientists revealed last year that ice is being lost from Greenland seven times faster than it was in the 1990s. It not only pushing up global sea-level rise estimated earlier but also putting 400 million people at risk of flooding every year by the century end.
As per the more recent research, Antarctica, the largest ice sheet on Earth, is also losing mass at a much faster rate, although the latest works of the University of California and Nasa reveals a nuanced picture.
“In Antarctica, the mass loss in the west proceeds unabated, which is very bad news for sea-level rise,” Velicogna said. “But we also observe a mass gain in the Atlantic sector of east Antarctica caused by an increase in snowfall, which helps mitigate the enormous increase in mass loss that we’ve seen in the last two decades in other parts of the continent.”
At present, as the coronavirus crisis has gripped the world’s attention, the research has further illustrated the runaway global heating that has posed existential dangers. Crucial climate talks are set to be held this year-end in Glasgow, although the virus that triggered a wave of cancellations has threatened to undermine this diplomatic effort.
“The technical brilliance involved in weighing the ice sheets using satellites in space is just amazing,” said Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Penn State University who was not involved in the study.
“It is easy for us to be distracted by fluctuations, so the highly reliable long data sets from Grace and other sensors are important in clarifying what is really going on, showing us both the big signal and the wiggles that help us understand the processes that contribute to the big signal.”