Greenland Ice Melt Data Points to Faster Sea Level Rise

A new study is showing that sea level rise around Greenland has accelerated dramatically. This acceleration began during the late 20th century and is confirmed by ice-melt measurements. Because of the loss of ice, sea levels have risen around Greenland and further away. If this trend continues, this will cause floods to occur more often and storm surges to spread farther inland.

The researchers looked at changes in climate across the Arctic between 2000 and 2019. They focused on the shifting snow line, which separates parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet that melt in summer. Warmer summers drive the snow line higher while colder winters bring it back down. The result is that the ice sheet is melting faster than it could previously have.

The melting of the ice sheet on Greenland has been increasing by about fifty percent since the start of the industrial age. As the ice sheet continues to lose mass, it will become unsustainable. It will eventually shed around 3.3 percent of its volume – the equivalent of 110 quadrillion tonnes of ice – raising sea levels around the world.

The researchers’ analysis compared three climate scenarios based on Greenland ice melt. The two most recent scenarios resulted in different amounts of sea level rise and were found to differ in terms of the sensitivity of Greenland to atmospheric circulation. However, the 2012 high melt scenario produced a much higher disequilibrium than the low melt year.

Although Greenland has been a relatively stable place for the past 6,000 years, the mass balance has turned into the red since 1990. This increased melt exceeds the net gain from snow accumulation, which could accelerate sea level rise in the future. The researchers said this warming trend would increase sea level by four inches by the end of the century.

The researchers used area to volume scaling to model ice sheet dynamics and determine a general trend of sea level rise. This analysis has multiple benefits. First, it is possible to use the same methodology to estimate the future amount of ice in Greenland. This analysis allows for lower bound estimates of SLR and mass loss.

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