Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Greenland Ice Sheet Melt Rate Is Much Higher Compared To Past Centuries

Melting of Greenland’s ice is ‘off the charts,’ study shows Melting of Greenland’s ice is ‘off the charts,’ study shows
Elijah Vega | 07 December, 2018, 23:30

According to Trusel, the current thought in the scientific community is that there is a temperature threshold that could trigger a point of no return for the eventual melting of Greenland and Antarctica's ice sheets.

The increased melting began around the same time humans started altering the atmosphere in the mid-1800s, said Trusel, lead author of a study of the meltwater runoff that was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

"From a historical perspective, today's melt rates are off the charts, and this study provides the evidence to prove this", said Dr. Sarah Das, a glaciologist at WHOI and co-author of the study.

In General, noted a fifty percent increase in the total volume of melt water in the ice cover since the start of the industrial era. Iceberg calving into the ocean from the edges of the glaciers is of course, one part of how fresh water re-enters the ocean, however, over "half of the ice sheet water entering the ocean comes from runoff from melted snow and glacial ice atop the ice sheet". The melting and freezing cycle also makes ice below the surface less permeable, so more runoff is shunted to the ocean rather than trickling down into the ice sheet.

To study the melting of Greenland's ice sheet, the team used a large drill to collect ice cores from sites more than 6,000 feet above sea level on the ice sheet and a nearby ice cap. This means that the sea level could rise sooner and faster than previously assumed. If anyone wonders why the cores were drilled at such a high elevation - it is because the cores would contain records of past melt intensity, dating back to the 17th century. Greenland experiences seasonal melt during the warm summer days, and at low elevations, the melting is more intense.

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Melting from Greenland's ice sheet is the largest single driver of global sea level rise, which scientists predict could swamp coastal cities and settlements in the coming decades. This frozen meltwater creates distinct ice bands that pile up over years to form layers of densely packed ice.

Besides Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, ice core samples were examined at the U.S. National Science Foundation Ice Core Facility in Denver, Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, and the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada. Dark bands running horizontally across the cores record the strength of the melting for a given year. Melt layers that were thicker indicated the years in which more melting occurred, whereas thinner sections represented years with less amount of melting. Mwltwater from the ice sheet runs off into the ocean, contributing to sea level rise.

Satellite methods to understand melting rates have only been around in recent decades, so the ability to go back further in time was important. Researchers also provided more firm evidence of how much the surface around the Arctic has been melting due to rapid climate change.

"Greenland is now much more sensitive to further increase in temperature than it was just 50 years ago", the authors of the study.

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