By Daanyal Raja
According to a study from Columbia University and Belgium’s Liege University, Greenland’s ice sheets have shrunk by a record amount within the past year. It claims that the island lost approximately 600 billion tonnes of water last year alone, which accounts for 1.5 millimeters of sea-level rise. Greenland’s ice sheet, which is second to size to Antarctica, experienced its largest drop in surface mass since measurements began in 1948. These record-breaking numbers were caused by an increased frequency of atmospheric circulation patterns which can be attributed to climate change as well as rising temperatures.
The study was led by Marco Tedesco, one of the research professors at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. When interviewed by Reuters, Tedesco stated, “We’re destroying ice in decades that was built over thousands of years.” Tedesco also said that Greenland contributed roughly 20-25% of global sea-level rise over the last few decades and that if carbon emissions continue to be unregulated and increase, that number could grow up to 40% by the end of the century. If melted entirely, Greenland’s ice sheet could raise global sea levels by approximately 23 feet.
The models that many scientists use to project future ice loss in Greenland are unable to represent the significant impact of the varying atmospheric circulations, indicating that the models will underestimate a large amount of ice melting in the future.
A large amount of freshwater melting, similar to what is occurring in Greenland, has the potential to change ocean salinity, which in turn will negatively impact marine ecosystems. It also jeopardizes the safety of the hundreds of millions of people who live at or below the current water level.
From the bush fires that ravaged the Australian outback to melting permafrost near the Arctic circle that will release harmful greenhouse gases once melted, climate change and its impacts have been occurring faster than many scientists once expected. A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that was published in September of last year estimated that if greenhouse gas emissions weren’t controlled and kept increasing, sea levels could rise by one meter by the end of the century, emphasizing the reality of the claims made in Tedesco’s study.