Greenland Glaciers Doomed To Melt By 2100

Posted: Apr 5 2017, 2:34pm CDT | by , Updated: Apr 5 2017, 2:40pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Greenland Glaciers Doomed to Melt by 2100
Icebergs near Ililissat, Greenland. Credit: Mark Garten

The ice caps of Greenland glaciers is melting rapidly due to climate change and have passed the point of no return

Greenland glaciers and their ice caps have crossed a critical tipping point in recent years but the event has largely gone unnoticed.

Now, a new study says that Greenland edges that contain ice caps about twice the size of Netherlands have melted so much they have passed the point of no return and now they have totally lost their ability to retain and refreeze water.

The threshold was passed in 1997 and has caused a rapid increase in ice melting since then. Prior to this, the ice caps were able to contain and refreeze enough meltwater to remain stable, despite temperature fluctuations. But the situation is now irreversible. It is causing a lot of meltwater to run off into the sea and elevating sea levels.

Today about one third of sea level rise is contributed by the melting of Greenland’s ice. Researchers predict that if warming trend continues the same way, Greenland glaciers may lose one fifth or one quarter of their ice caps by the year 2100. If that happen it will raise global sea level by about 1.5 inches by the end of the century.

These findings are important because they reveal exactly why most of the Greenland glaciers are melting rapidly and how they can impact global sea level rise.

“These peripheral glaciers and ice caps can be thought of as colonies of ice that are in rapid decline, many of which will likely disappear in the near future," said co researcher Ian Howat, a glaciologist at Ohio State University. "In that sense, you could say that they're 'doomed.' However, the ice sheet itself is still not 'doomed' in the same way. The vast interior ice sheet is more climatologically isolated than the surrounding glaciers and ice caps.

To assess the present condition of Greenland’s ice caps, researchers developed a detailed model and studied 12 areas around the island. The data showed that ice caps in each of those 12 areas have been losing significant amount of mass since 1997. Today, they are losing about three times as much ice per year as they were before 1997.

Researchers have also compared the changes in the volume of ice caps with measurements made by satellites. And they are in line with recent finds.

“The new model shows a striking agreement with observations,” said Bert Wouters from Utrecht University.

“After increasing resolution from 11 km to 1 km, the researchers saw that the mass loss correlates directly with meltwater run-off, which is in turn directly influenced by an increase in temperature.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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