The Second Largest Ice Sheet on the Planet is Close to Tipping into Accelerated Melting

 

A new study found that  The Greenland ice sheet, the second largest on the planet, is close to reaching the tipping point of no return with ‘accelerated melting,’.

Experts at the University of Copenhagen and the Arctic University of Norway analyzed the Jakobshavn basin, located in the Central-Western part, one of the five largest in Greenland.

If the alarming signs occurred in this region of the entire ice sheet, resulting in its melting completely, it could eventually raise global sea level by 23 feet (7 meters).

At this point, it is not yet clear to researchers whether the ice sheet has reached a tipping point, or whether it is decades away, but it is possible that a sea level rise of a few feet is inevitable.

‘We might be seeing the beginning of a large-scale destabilization, but at the moment, we cannot tell, unfortunately,’ the study’s lead author, University of Copenhagen professor Dr. Niklas Boers, said in a statement. ‘So far, the signals we see are only regional, but that might simply be due to the scarcity of accurate and long-term data for other parts of the ice sheet.’

In their analysis, the researchers believe that the ice sheet, which has been recorded and analyzed over the past 140 years, suffers from a decrease in the height of the ice sheet due to melting, which is then exposed to the warmer air.

The researchers warned of the possibility of a continuous loop, with greater melting due to warmer temperatures.

One thing that is clear from the research is that the ice sheet is becoming more unstable.

‘We show that the melt-elevation feedback is likely to be responsible for the observed destabilization,’  the researchers wrote in the study summary ‘Our results suggest substantially enhanced melting in the near future.’

“We are on the edge of a precipice, and every year with emissions of carbon dioxide continuing as usual, the likelihood of exceeding the tipping point increases dramatically,” Boers said in an interview with The Guardian.

He explained that it would likely take centuries for sea level rise to between three and six feet (1-2 meters), and that the entire ice sheet would take about 1,000 years to completely disappear.

Boers has used a variety of inputs, including melting rates since 1880, altitude changes, temperature records, and simulated modeling to conduct the research.

In the statement, Boers said more research is needed to accurately assess the entire ice sheet.

Sources:

  • https://www.pnas.org/content/118/21/e2024192118