Rain is melting Greenland’s ice, even in winter, raising fears about sea level rise

Science | AAAS | 3/7/2019 | Staff
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Rising global temperatures are making Greenland feel a bit more like the United Kingdom—and that’s bad news for the ice sheet that covers the massive arctic island. Rain is becoming more frequent, melting ice and setting the stage for far more melt in the future, according to a new study. Even more disturbing, researchers say, is that raindrops are pockmarking areas of the ice sheet even in the dead of winter and that as the climate warms, those areas will expand.

“This is what climate change looks like, it’s the ‘Atlantification’ of the Arctic,” says climate scientist Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute in Copenhagen, who was not involved in the study. “This paper identifies a really important mechanism and we need to figure out how it plays into our predictions of sea level rise.”

Year - Knife - Climate - Change - Tons

Each year, the hot knife of climate change excises 270 billion tons of ice from Greenland’s more than 1.7-million-square-kilometer ice sheet. Between 1992 and 2011, all that lost ice raised global sea level roughly 7.5 millimeters. Roughly half of the ice loss in that period occurred at the ice sheet’s edge in the form of icebergs cleaving from glaciers and thundering into the sea. But in recent years, satellite monitoring has revealed that 70% of Greenland’s contributions to sea level rise has come from meltwater, not ice.

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Since melting on the surface of the ice sheet came to dominate in 2011, Greenland’s annual contribution to global sea level rise has doubled. Warming has driven this acceleration and, over the past 30 years or so, average air temperatures at the ice sheet warmed by as much as 1.8°C in summer, and up to 3°C in winter.

Causes - Melt

To better understand the causes of this accelerating melt,...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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