Ice melting in Greenland caused unprecedented sea level rise

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Analysis of satellite data revealed a significant mass loss by the glaciers of Greenland in the summer of 2019. In just two abnormally warm summer months, Greenland lost 600 billion tons of ice, which, according to scientists, caused the rise in sea level by 2.2 millimeters. The results are published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

A study by American scientists from the University of California, Irvine and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, conducted in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, was based on data from the GRACE satellite mission and its continuation GRACE-FO, a joint NASA-German aeronautics and gravity field study project Earth and its temporal variations associated, in particular, with climate change processes.

GRACE monthly gravity anomaly maps are 1000 times more accurate than previous maps, which greatly improves the accuracy of many methods used by oceanographers, hydrologists, glaciologists, geologists and other scientists to study climate-related phenomena. GRACE measurements made it possible to detect with great accuracy changes in the distribution of water throughout the planet. GRACE data are critical to determining the cause of sea level rise, whether it is the result of adding a mass of water to the ocean – for example, due to melting glaciers – or due to thermal expansion of water due to warming, or due to changes in salinity.

In the Arctic region, 2019 was the hottest year in the history of observations, and analysis of satellite data revealed an amazing mass loss by the glaciers of Greenland. In the two summer months of last year, they lost 600 billion tons. For comparison, from 2002 to 2018, the average summer ice loss was an average of 268 billion tons.

To make it clear what volumes we are talking about, the authors cite the fact that, for example, the densely populated Los Angeles County, which has more than 10 million people, consumes 1 billion tons of fresh water per year. That is, that fresh water that dissolved in the ocean in just two months would be enough for a 10-million megalopolis for 600 years.

Due to global warming, glaciers are melting around the world. As the ice reflecting sunlight recedes, the dark surfaces exposed beneath it absorb even more heat, causing further acceleration of melting. This feedback loop is very worrying for scientists. In addition, unlike sea ice retreat, the loss of ground glaciers directly causes sea level rise, endangering coastal cities and towns around the world.

“We knew that last summer in Greenland it was especially warm, all parts of the ice sheet were melting, but the numbers we got are really huge,” the words of the lead author of the study, Isabella Velicogna, professor of science about Land of the University of California, Irvine.

Scientists said that last year the ice of Greenland melted seven times faster than it was in the 1990s, which forced them to re-evaluate the risks of global sea level rise. According to the authors, by the end of this century, 400 million people will be exposed to flood risk every year.

The results of the study also showed that high mass losses are observed for the glaciers of Antarctica. Of course, this primarily applies to Western Antarctica. For example, during the period from 2002 to 2019, mass losses in the Gulf of the Amundsen Sea and on the Antarctic Peninsula amounted to 2130 and 560 million tons, respectively.

There are places in the east of the icy continent where there is a loss of ice, but in general in East Antarctica there is still compensated accumulation. So, on Wilkes Land from 2002 to 2019, the mass of glaciers decreased by 370 million tons, and on Queen Maud Land for the period from 2009 to 2019, it increased by 980 million tons.

“In Antarctica, massive losses in the west do not stop, which is very bad news for sea level rise,” Velikonja says. “But we also note massive growth in the Atlantic sector of East Antarctica, caused by increased snowfall, which helps mitigate the enormous increase in mass loss which we have observed over the past two decades in other parts of the continent.”


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The article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by Ordo News staff in our US newsroom press.

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