Research shows Greenland ice loss has accelerated rapidly

New data from research published this week focuses on the ice mass in Greenland. Greenland is the home to the second largest ice sheet in the world, and new research shows ice loss is accelerating rapidly. The study used information that was based on nearly 50-years of data.

The study estimates that Greenland's glaciers have gone from releasing 51 billion tons of ice into the ocean between 1980 and 1990 to losing 286 billion tons of ice into the sea between 2010 and 2018. The data shows that the ice loss from ice sheets in Greenland is responsible for increasing global ocean levels by 14 millimeters since 1972. Half of that global increase in sea levels happened in the last eight years.

The researchers say that the ice loss in Greenland is likely to get worse. So far, the regions where the most significant potential ice loss could occur are in the far northwest and northeast of the island. Those areas are near the Arctic ocean and haven't changed as quickly as other parts of Greenland. The researchers say that if those areas begin to melt and lose ice more rapidly, the overall ice loss in Greenland and its contribution to global sea levels could grow more.

Researcher Eric Rignot, one of the study authors, says that the 1980s marked a transition time when the Earth's climate started to drift significantly from its natural variability due to greenhouse gasses. Rignot says that those areas of Greenland near the Arctic ocean have the most significant potential ice loss and the Arctic region is losing six times the amount of ice that was lost 40 years ago.

The scientists note that Greenland is in an area of the Arctic that has warmed by over 2-degrees Celsius and as much as 4-degrees Celsius in other areas. The team says that it takes ice loss of about 360 billion tons to equate to a millimeter of sea level rise.