Greenland Ice Sheet Is Melting More Rapidly


Global warming deniers have further evidence to deny, as a freshly published study found that the ice sheet covering over 80 per cent of Greenland is now melting more rapidly than expected since at least 2003.

The ice sheet covering the surface of Greenland is the second largest in the world after Antartica’s. Scientists have known for decades that the country’s ice sheet has been melting, but the speed at which the phenomenon has been occurring of late is rather alarming.

In 2012 scientists noticed that for the first time since 1889, 97 per cent of the ice sheet covering Greenland was experiencing melting phenomena after a series of unusually hot days in the middle of July.

Except for July 2012, ice loss on the Island has been detected mostly in the southwestern part, in a region called the Jakobshavn, and in the northwest. This may be changing soon, as scientists have found unassailable evidence that the ice loss is now affecting portions of the country than had been immune so far.

The latest study on Greenland, published on the magazine Natural Climate Change, found that for the first time the ice sheet has been thinning also in the northeast region of the country that has been stable for the last 25 years.

According to Michael Bevis, a co-author of the study and professor of earth sciences at the University of Ohio, the speed of the ice thinning in the northeastern region surprised everyone.

Ice sheet melting in the northeastern region of Greenland has been happening more rapidly speed since 2003, when a series of warmer than expected summers started to melt a bigger than usual amount of ice, producing water that funneled down, creating crevasses and cracks in the ice. Such cracks can widen as more water flows through them and eventually undermine the stability of the glaciers and causing big chunks of ice to fall into the water.

Scientists participating in the study estimated that between April 2002 and April 2012, the largest glacier northeast region, the Zachariae, lost 10 billion tons of ice per year, retreating 12.4 miles. In comparison, the Jakobshavn glacier, one of the fastest-moving ice streams in the southwest, retreated 21.7 miles in 150 years.

Kurt Kjaer, another scientist who took part in the study, said that the surprising melting of the northeastern part of Greenland’s ice sheet will have to be put into perspective and compared with past data. However, in his opinion the comparisons are likely to show that the mass of ice lost over the past decade is “something out of the ordinary.”

Experts are particularly worried about the consequences that the melt of the northeastern ice stream can have on the rest of Greenland, since it stretches some 370 into the interior of the country and could therefore change the entire mass balance of the ice sheet.

The ice sheet melting in the northeastern region of Greenland is the latest bad news coming from the advancing global warming and, according to scientists, may soon result in sea levels rising more rapidly than previously expected.

By Stefano Salustri

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