Greenland Ice Melting Over 7% Faster Than Thought

Greenland's ice

A study in the journal Science Advances shows that Greenland’s ice sheet is melting by 20 gigatons (20 billion metric tons) per year or 7.6 percent faster than thought. Previously, experts thought that Greenland lost around 2,500 gigatons of ice from 2003-2013 but recent calculations revealed that it was actually around 2,700 gigatons.

“It’s a fairly modest correction,” points out study co-author Michael Bevis of The Ohio State University, who is also the Ohio Eminent Scholar in Geodynamics, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State and leader of Greenland GPS Network, GNET. “It doesn’t change our estimates of the total mass loss all over Greenland by that much, but it brings a more significant change to our understanding of where within the ice sheet that loss has happened and where it is happening now.”

Bevis continues, “This result is a detail, but it is an important detail. By refining the spatial pattern of mass loss in the world’s second largest — and most unstable — ice sheet, and learning how that pattern has evolved, we are steadily increasing our understanding of ice loss processes, which will lead to better-informed projections of sea level rise.”

Earlier this year, a study published in the journal The Cryosphere reveals that Greenland’s ice has been persistently darkening. This leads to the ice absorbing more heat and melting in the last two decades. The study’s researchers believe that this would cause sea levels to increase, which would likely change ocean ecology and circulation.

The study’s lead author Marco Tedesco, a research professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and adjunct scientist at NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, says that the ice surface melts and dust from erosion or soot blowing in from wildfires pile up during summer. This causes the surface to appear darker. This then causes the ice surface to be less reflective and absorb more solar radiation.


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