Greenland’s Ice Sheets Melting Faster Than Once Believed Says Study

Greenland's Ice Sheets Melting Faster Than Once Believed Says Study

A new research study is showing that Greenland’s ice sheets are melting at a much higher rate than what was once believed. This means there is a faster increase in the level of water of Earth’s sea levels. While scientists were aware of climate change causing the ice sheet of Greenland to thin for years now, melting in the country’s northeast area was found for the first time. Ice loss in that region has almost tripled since 2003.

Greenland is seeing its ice sheet receding over 12 miles in the previous decade and therefore losing nearly 10 billion tons of ice each year from April of 2003 to April of 2012, the research report found. This hasty change in that region shocked everybody, stated one of the research study co-authors, Michael Bevis, who works as a professor of earth sciences at a university in Ohio.

Such a loss has been a key contributor to the world wide rise of sea levels over the past two decades, accounting for about one-sixth of the rise each year. As humans continue to release growing quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, it more readily takes in sunlight and warms the planet, therefore making sea levels to go up. Ice bounces the sunlight back from the surface of the earth, but water captures the sun’s heat. This creates a gigantic loop: as the temperatures go up, then more ice becomes water, which makes temperature to rise even more so and the ice sheets such as Greenland’s melt at a growing speed.

Such results have started debates among Greenland experts, because the loss of ice is so much higher than what was expected. A glaciologist, who works at a university in Washington State declared that no one expected to see such a huge ice loss. He added that he believed the entire region was likely to lose a lot more mass in the future but he did not believe there was a catastrophic withdrawal going on just yet.

Information is sparse about northeast Greenland. Researchers are only able to estimate ice loss with computer models that are created on ice velocity and thickness and glacier shapes. That area is also extremely remote. To do this most recent study, scientists had to use different information bases, like aerial photography, satellite data, radar instruments and GPS tracking, in order to find the changes in the ice in Greenland.

Satellite pictures showed Greenland’s three main glaciers in the northeast had all recently lost ice. Previous studies have also showed that one of the glaciers was flowing faster than it ever had, having increased its speed by a third.

When glaciers or ice sheets melt, the freshly exposed ground lifts up, due to it being free of its heavy load. GPS observing revealed that the land mass in the northeast of Greenland had begun to spring up back in 2003 but in a very small amount. Also there had been abnormally warm temperatures between 2002 and 2004 which also helped to cause the ice melt. The warm air meant there was less ice where glaciers entered into the sea. Such sea ice performs like a dam and holds back the flowing glaciers. The missing ice meant that the northeastern ice sheets were able to move toward the ocean and could drop more icebergs as well. Since 2004, temperatures have actually become colder but the glaciers carry on their speedy stride toward the sea.

Northeast Greenland had been considered the very last stable region of the ice sheet of Greenland, explained Bevis. However this new research study has shown that the loss of ice in the northeast is speeding up. So now it appears that every part of the Greenland ice sheet is unsteady.

It is believed that these events will cause the present ocean level to possibly rise by nearly a foot to almost 40 inches by the year 2100. One of the key questions with such an estimate is just how fast will the ice sheets end up melting. Greenland is known to be very multifaceted and it is extremely hard to predict just what is going to happen in the future. That is why the future estimates of the ocean rising are also so hard to figure out.”

The Greenland debate will progress soon, because numerous other scientists have also received new results from northeast Greenland which should come out to the public sometime this year. These research studies also show that Greenland’s ice sheets are melting at a much higher rate than what was once believed.

By Kimberly Ruble


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