Greenland Is Losing More Ice Than Predicted; More Communities At Risk

The melting ice sheet of Greenland has been widely reported over the past months. However, the situation could be worse than previously expected. 

A new study, published in Science Advances, shows that the island nation could potentially contribute more water to the rising sea level. This would happen if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and make the atmosphere warmer. 

Models created using data from NASA's Operation IceBridge airborne campaign predict that in the next 200 years, Greenland’s melting ice could add 19 to 63 inches to global sea level rise. That figure is 80 percent higher than previous estimate of up to 35 inches of sea level increase. 

For the study, researchers at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks created models that showed the state of Earth from today to the year 3000. The models indicated changing climate scenarios based on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere each year. 

The most severe scenario made by the team showed that Greenland may lose more than 99 percent of its ice sheet by 3000. The researchers said their models provided more accurate information than previous studies since it captured the changing flow and speed of glacier melting across Greenland. 

"We recognized that some outlet glaciers flow very fast -- orders of magnitude faster than the interior of the ice sheet," Andy Aschwanden, study lead author and a research associate professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Geophysical Institute, said in a statement

The models also included other factors like underwater melting, large ice chunks breaking off glaciers, changing snowfall rates and rising air temperatures.

Future of Greendland

To date, Greenland’s ice sheet measures more than 10,000 feet above sea level. The ice is high enough that it affects the atmosphere like mountains, causing snow and colder temperature that help maintain the ice sheet. 

However, due to continued emissions future weather patterns may change, leading to less snowfall. 

"In the warmer climate, glaciers have lost the regions where more snow falls than melts in the summer, which is where new ice is formed," Mark Fahnestock, study author and a research professor at the Geophysical Institute, said. "They're like lumps of ice in an open cooler that are melting away, and no one is putting any more ice into the cooler."

The researchers suggested reducing emissions across the world to help limit Greenland’s melting ice.