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Greenland lost more ice than previously thought: Study

Climate change has led to Greenland’s ice sheet losing more ice than we thought - 20% more, in fact. This was discovered in a recent study

By groundreportdesk
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Mountain glaciers will shrink by 1/3 by 2050 no matter what humans do

Climate change has led to Greenland’s ice sheet losing more ice than we thought - 20% more. This was discovered in a recent study that used satellite pictures to see how glaciers have been shrinking over the last 40 years.

Earlier research showed that about 5,000 gigatons of ice have melted from Greenland’s ice sheet in the last 20 years. This melting ice is a big reason why sea levels are going up.

Study used satellites to track glaciers

In this new study, US researchers looked at almost 240,000 satellite pictures taken from 1985 to 2022. These pictures showed where the glaciers end and the ocean begins.

"Nearly every glacier in Greenland has thinned or retreated over the past few decades," lead author Chad Greene, a glaciologist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told AFP.

This is happening everywhere without exception. Over the past 40 years, we have lost more than 1000 gigatons (1 gigaton equals 1 billion tons) or 20% of ice from Greenland’s edges, which we hadn't counted before.

Researchers in a Nature journal article said that Greenland’s ice sheet has lost much more ice recently than we thought. Since the edge ice is already in the water, it has a small direct effect on rising sea levels.

However, this could signal more ice melting overall, making it easier for glaciers to move towards the sea. The researchers found that the Greenland glaciers that change the most with the seasons - growing in winter and shrinking in summer - are also the most affected by global warming and have retreated the most since 1985.

People believe that the melting of Greenland's huge ice sheet, the second largest in the world after Antarctica, has caused over 20% of the sea level rise seen since 2002.


Copernicus, Europe's climate monitor, reported that last year stood as the hottest on record, and ocean temperatures maintained a "persistently and unusually high" level. The Arctic, which is warming roughly four times faster than the rest of the planet, experienced its warmest-ever summer in 2023, a consequence of escalating human-induced climate change.

The warming of the atmosphere can cause the surface of glaciers to melt and trickle down into the bottom of the ice sheet, making it easier to lose more ice. "It's like putting water between the tire and the road, and the ice just starts to slide right off into the ocean," said Greene.

Excess heat, caused by humanity's carbon pollution, has resulted in warmer oceans, which have absorbed around 90 percent of it. These warmer oceans are causing the crucial ice shelves that buffer the vast ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica to melt.

Researchers also expressed concerns about another potential impact: the disruption of the deep-water currents driving global weather patterns.

They said this flood of extra freshwater melting into the ocean could affect the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a vast system that regulates the global transfer of heat from the tropics into the northern hemisphere.

A consortium of international scientists last year warned that AMOC changes and melting ice sheets were among some two dozen climate tipping points presenting humanity with an "unprecedented" threat.

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