Greenland Is Disappearing Quickly, and Scientists Have Found a New Reason Why

The Greenland ice sheet could also be much more delicate to the warming local weather than scientists beforehand thought.

new study finds that rising air temperatures are working with heat ocean waters to hurry the melting of Greenland’s seaside glaciers.

The findings, revealed within the journal Nature Geoscience, shed new gentle on the forces driving ice loss on the world’s second largest ice sheet.

The Greenland ice sheet is shedding a mean of round 250 billion metric tons of ice per 12 months. These losses are rushing up over time, research have discovered—and there are two most important processes inflicting it.

Warm air temperatures trigger melting to happen on the floor of the ice sheet—that course of accounts for about half the ice Greenland loses every year. The different half comes from glaciers on the ice sheet’s edge crumbling into the ocean.

Losses from these seaside glaciers have, till now, been primarily attributed to heat ocean waters licking on the fringe of the ice. But the brand new analysis finds that rising air temperatures have a large affect as properly.

Warm air causes the floor of the ice sheet to soften, and that meltwater then runs off into the ocean. When that occurs, it churns up the waters—and that turbulence helps warmth stand up from the depths of the ocean and heat up the waters coming into contact with the ice. That, in flip, melts the glaciers quicker.

Lead research creator Donald Slater, a scientist on the University of Edinburgh, likened the method to ice cubes in a glass of water. They clearly soften quicker when the water is hotter. But additionally they soften quicker when the water is stirred.

Rising air temperatures in Greenland “effectively result in a stirring of the ocean close to the ice sheet, causing faster melting of the ice sheet by the ocean,” he mentioned in a assertion.

The researchers used a mixture of observations and fashions to research the soften charges on the edges of Greenland’s oceanfront glaciers, and then to tease out the roles of ocean versus environment.

They discovered that glaciers in south Greenland are melting the quickest. That wasn’t a shock—these glaciers are closest to the nice and cozy Atlantic Ocean. In these areas, the fashions counsel that heat waters play the dominant half in melting the ice.

Glaciers within the northern components of the ice sheet, then again, are uncovered to colder waters and are inclined to soften at slower charges. In these locations, the ocean remains to be the larger affect—however air temperatures play a extra substantial function.

The research concludes that warming air temperatures have had a main hand in rushing up the losses from Greenland’s crumbling glaciers. If the environment hadn’t warmed over the previous couple of many years, the analysis finds, the retreat of Greenland’s glaciers as a entire possible would have been decreased by as a lot as a third. In northwestern Greenland, it may have been decreased by as a lot as half.

“This unfortunately adds to the overwhelming body of evidence showing the sensitivity of the Greenland ice sheet to climate change, hence the need for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Slater mentioned.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News offers important information for vitality and surroundings professionals.


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