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Greenland's ice is melting at an 'unprecedented rate'

07 Декабря 2018

Climate change has forced the melting of Greenland's mile-thick ice sheet into "overdrive", threatening to boost global sea levels to unsafe levels.

A team of scientists journeyed to Greenland in 2015 to observe and measure the rate that the colossal ice sheets in the region are melting.

Glaciologist and climate scientist Luke Trusel of Rowan University, led a team of USA and European researchers who analyzed more than three centuries of melt patterns in ice cores from western Greenland. Researchers also provided more firm evidence of how much the surface around the Arctic has been melting due to rapid climate change. At such locations, meltwater runs off the ice sheet and into the ocean, contributing to sea level rise - but in the process, no record of the melt remains.

Forecasts for how high and how soon the rise will come vary greatly, partly because scientists lack clarity on how fast warming oceans are melting polar ice sheets. In the warmer summer months, melting occurs across much of Greenland's ice sheet surface. This prevents it from escaping the ice sheet in the form of runoff.

The genuine final message is its just two last decades we have observed the unparalleled rise in runoff said Sarah Das, a glaciologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and co-author on the study.

The group analyzed ice layers spanning 350 years and found that the amount of Greenland ice sheet disintegrating was "exceptional" and that minimal but continued warming at present could inflict additional damage to the ice.

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The research says the melting could contribute to rising sea levels - threatening low-lying cities, islands and industries worldwide. "Anything we can do to limit future warming, even by a little bit, is going to make a huge difference to keeping ice on Greenland and not in the ocean". 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. This frozen meltwater creates distinct ice bands that pile up over years to form layers of densely packed ice.

The long-term record the researchers built from these layered ice cores allowed them to spot a slight trend of increased melting across Greenland coinciding with the beginning of modern-day warming in the mid-1800s.

"We found a fifty percent increase in total ice sheet meltwater runoff versus the start of the industrial era and a 30 percent increase since the 20th century alone". Ice core records provide critical historical context because the satellites have only been recording measurements since the late 1970s, according to study co-author and graduate student Matt Osman of the MIT-WHOI Joint Program.

Dr Trusel said: "To be able to answer what might happen to Greenland next, we need to understand how Greenland has already responded to climate change".

This research was funded by the US National Science Foundation, institutional support from Rowan University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the US Department of Defense, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the Netherlands Earth System Science Center, and the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research.

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Greenland's ice is melting at an 'unprecedented rate'