Greenland is losing ice almost seven times faster than it did in the 1990s and is following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) high-end climate warming scenario, which would leave 40 million more people exposed to coastal flooding by 2100.
A team of 96 polar scientists from 50 international organizations has created the most complete picture of Greenland’s ice loss to date. The Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE) Team compiled 26 separate surveys to analyze the changes in the mass of Greenland’s ice sheet between 1992 and 2018. To get the “whole picture”, data from 11 different satellite missions were summed up, including measurements of the ice sheet’s changing volume, flow, and gravity.
How Bad Does it Look?
The findings were published today in ‘Nature Today’, show that Greenland has been stripped off with 3.8 trillion tons of ice since 1992, which is enough to make global sea levels rise by 10.6 millimeters. The rate of ice loss has increased from 33 billion tons per year in the 1990s to 254 billion tons per year in the last decade (a seven times increase in three decades).
Professor Andrew Shepherd at the University of Leeds led the assessment along with Dr. Erik Ivins who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. It was supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.
The IPCC forecasted that the global sea levels will rise by 60 centimeters by 2100, putting 360 million people at risk of annual coastal flooding. But this new study shows that Greenland’s ice losses are escalating faster than the expectations and are instead tracking the IPCC’s high-end climate warming scenario, which predicts 7 centimeters to be added in the data.
“As a rule of thumb, for every centimeter rise in global sea level another six million people are exposed to coastal flooding around the planet”, Professor Shepherd said. He also commented, “On current trends, Greenland ice melting will cause 100 million people to be flooded each year by the end of the century, so 400 million in total due to all sea-level rise.” He further stated, “These are not unlikely events or small impacts; they are happening and will be devastating for coastal communities.”
The team also used regional climate models to depict that half of the ice losses were due to the melting of the surface, as air temperatures have increased. The other half has been due to increased glacier flow, triggered by rising ocean temperatures.
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