Greenland’s massive ice sheet is melting at a rate faster than experienced in the past 12,000 years, according to a new study in Nature. Published on Wednesday, the study, dubbed “Greenland Ice Sheet Will Exceed Holocene Values this Century,” revealed that Greenland is already losing ice at a rate four times faster than any period in the past 11,700 years.
Earlier studies showed that the fast rate of ice melt will lead to rising sea levels and disruption in ocean currents. According to these predictions, Greenland’s ice contributes the most to sea-level rise, with advanced models showing it raising sea levels by 0.7 millimeters each year. Estimations predicted the rate of sea-level rise to increase an additional four times by the end of the century. However, the new study explains that the actual impact of Greenland’s ice sheet melting could prove even worse than earlier predicted.
The new paper offers a revised prediction, showing that increased greenhouse gas emissions may worsen the state of affairs. If nothing changes regarding the current state of global warming, sea levels may rise between 2 to 10 centimeters per year by the century’s end.
According to Jason Briner, a geologist at the University of Buffalo and the study’s lead author, the changes humans have made to the planet are already affecting Greenland ice melting rates. “We have altered our planet so much that the rates of ice sheet melt this century are on pace to be greater than anything we have seen under natural variability of the ice sheet over the past 12,000 years,” Briner said.
Briner adds that the current ice melting state is not caused by natural variability as it has been historically. Instead, the current state is purely caused by humans.
Andy Aschwanden from the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks wrote commentary on the research, saying that the only stopping greenhouse gas emissions can stop Greenland’s mass wasting. “Thanks to the work of Briner and colleagues, we are now one step closer to the goal of accurately and confidently predicting mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet. However, we are also increasingly certain that we are about to experience unprecedented rates of ice loss from Greenland, unless greenhouse-gas emissions are substantially reduced,” Aschwanden said.
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