|Next to the Antarctic ice sheet, the Greenland ice sheet is the largest ice body in the world, covering roughly 80% of the surface of the country / Photo by: JChristophe_Andre via Pixabay|
Next to the Antarctic ice sheet, the Greenland ice sheet is the largest ice body in the world, covering roughly 80% of the surface of the country. Ice sheets are a mass of glacial land ice that contains huge quantities of frozen water. It consists of layers of compressed snow from more than a hundred years, growing thicker and denser as the weight of new snow and ice layers compresses the older layers.
Ice sheets play a major role in our environment as they can influence water and climate. For instance, they can create cold downslope winders and alter storm tracks. Scientists estimate that sea level would rise by about 60 meters (200 feet) if the Antarctic ice sheet melted, while there would be a sea-level rise of 6 meters (20 feet) if the Greenland ice sheet melted.
Unfortunately, climate change has extremely affected the Greenland ice sheet for the past decades. Carbon Brief, a UK-based website designed to improve the understanding of climate change, both in terms of the science and the policy response, reported that Greenland had lost approximately 260 billion tons of ice annually between 2002 and 2016. The fate of Greenland’s ice sheet could have major consequences for the severity of future flooding. At the same time, it can alter coastlines, forcing communities to move inland.
Dr. Jason Box from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), one of the scientists studying the ice sheet, stated that coastal planners need to “brace themselves.” "Now that I'm starting to understand more of the consequences, it's actually keeping me awake at night because I realize the significance of this place around the world and the livelihoods that are already affected by sea-level rise," he said.
|Reports show that Greenland’s ice sheet is one of the fastest-shrinking streams of ice anywhere in the world / Photo by: Adrian Boliston via Wikimedia Commons|
11 Billion Tons of Ice in One Day
Reports show that Greenland’s ice sheet is one of the fastest-shrinking streams of ice anywhere in the world. The rate of shrinking has continued so aggressively over the past 15 years that the ice looks extremely diminished now. It seems almost battered and far less dominating in the landscape.
Last August 15, Greenland’s ice sheet experienced its biggest melt of the summer. It lost a total of 11 billion tons of surface ice to the ocean. The figure is equivalent to 4.4 million Olympic swimming pools. CNN, an American news-based pay television channel, reported that July has been the hottest month ever recorded in history, which explains why the country has also suffered a loss of 217 billion tons of ice in the same month alone. Unfortunately, Greenland's warm weather is set to continue for the next few days, and perhaps longer.
The loss of 11 billion tons of ice in Greenland is the highest since researchers started recording ice loss in 1950. This suggests that it is approaching a tipping point that could set it on an irreversible course towards disappearing entirely. Scientists fear that the catastrophic sea-level rise due to the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet could happen more quickly than we thought. A 2019 study conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the US (PNAS) revealed that melting during warm cycles that once served to balance new ice forming during cool cycles can now cause a significant meltdown. As a result, it would be difficult for the ice sheet to regenerate what it's losing.
Also, the staggering loss of 217 billion tons of ice last July represents some of the worst melting in Greenland since 2012. In 2012, 97% of its ice sheet experienced melting. So far, 56% of the ice sheet has melted this year. However, the global temperature, which is 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit above average, is higher compared to the 2012 heatwave. Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture, and history, reported that the ice sheet loss in July is enough to raise global average sea levels by 0.02 inches (0.5 millimeters).
"This might seem inconsequential, but every increment of sea-level rise provides a higher launchpad for storms to more easily flood coastal infrastructure, such as New York's subway system, parts of which flooded during Hurricane Sandy in 2012," researchers Andrew Freedman and Jason Samenow said.
Greenland’s Growing ‘Ice Slabs’
Since 1972, Greenland’s ice melt has raised sea levels by more than 0.5 inches. Half of that occurred just in the past eight years. The recent reports of melting ice weren’t supposed to happen for another 50 years, according to experts. The current rate is projected to melt the entire ice sheet within the next 1,000 years, which will cause an up to 23 feet of sea-level rise. Another noticeable impact is the thickening of giant ice slabs in Greenland.
A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder discovered that the contribution of less than a millimeter to global sea levels of ice slabs would grow substantially as our planet warms. Mike McFerrin, a CIRES and University of Colorado Boulder researcher who led the new study, said, "Even under moderate climate projections, ice slabs could double the size of the runoff zone by 2100. Under higher emissions scenarios, the runoff zone nearly triples in size."
|The recent reports of melting ice weren’t supposed to happen for another 50 years, according to experts. The current rate is projected to melt the entire ice sheet within the next 1,000 years, which will cause an up to 23 feet of sea-level rise / Photo by; dassel via Pixabay|
Science Daily, an American website that aggregates press releases about science, reported that ice slabs have expanded the runoff zone by about 65,000 km2 between 2001 and 2013. Unfortunately, the runoff zone could expand by the size of Colorado by 2100. This could prevent surface meltwater from trickling down and being absorbed by the snow, causing a significant sea-level rise.
Indeed, the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet has not only led to the current worsening status of climate change but also warns us of the dangers we might face soon.