Greenland’s glaciers will continue to disappear even if global warming stops

The island's ice sheet has passed the point of no return.

(ORDO NEWS) — Satellite data from Greenland over nearly 40 years show that the island’s glaciers have shrunk so much that even if global warming stops right now, the ice sheet will continue to shrink.

Research published in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment, show that the glaciers of Greenland have passed a kind of tipping point, when the snowfall, which replenishes the ice cover every year, does not keep up with the ice that melts and goes into the ocean.

“We studied this data using remote sensing to understand how the ice was released and accumulated. And we found that the ice released into the ocean [in volume] is much larger than the snow that accumulates on the surface of the ice sheet. ”- Mikalia King is the lead author of the study at the Byrd Center for Polar and Climate Research at Ohio State University.

King and her colleagues analyzed monthly data from 200 of the largest glaciers on the Greenland coast. They found that during the 1980s and 90s, accumulating snow and melting ice were largely in equilibrium, maintaining the integrity of the ice sheet.

“We measured the pulse of the ice sheet <…> and saw that it was relatively stable until, over a period of five to six years, there was an increase in glacial runoff into the ocean,” – Micalia King.

This acceleration began around 2000, when the glaciers began to lose about 500 gigatons of their mass annually, and the amount of accumulated snow remained at the same level. According to researchers, in the current climatic conditions, the ice sheet will gain mass only in one year in a hundred.

This means that even if humanity by some miracle could stop climate change, the ice sheet would continue to shrink.

“The retreat of the glaciers has led to a permanent loss of the dynamics of the entire ice sheet. Even if the climate stays the same or even gets a little colder, the ice sheet will still lose mass, ”- Ian Howarth, co-author of the study.

Ice from Greenland is a major contributor to the rise in sea levels – last year, Greenland’s ice sheet melted or broke away enough to raise sea levels by 2.2 millimeters in two months.


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