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Greenland’s ice sheet melting faster than predictions

Greenland’s ice sheet melting faster than predictions

FRANCE: The study, based on measurements covering nearly 20 years, suggests the melting ice sheets are becoming the main contributor to global sea level rise. Overtaking the loss of ice from Earth’s mountain glaciers and ice caps, much sooner than climate models had predicted.
Researchers revealed findings of the inner workings of Greenland’s icy coat at this year’s American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting this week. Radar flown by plane and dragged by snowmobile, as well as satellite measurements show how the ice cap is potentially turning into a Slip ‘N Slide for meltwater to rush to the Atlantic.
At the mid-elevations of Greenland’s ice, thick slabs of ice are developing instead of layers of compacted snow – known as firn – and thin ice layers. And closer to the edges of the ice, researchers are finding lakes buried under the firn.
On their own, each of the findings show that changes are afoot in Greenland. But taken together, they paint a worrisome picture for the massive cap of ice and snow that contains enough water to raise the world’s sea levels by up to 20 feet.
Those changes could be tied to a clear shift in ice sheet dynamics that happened over the period of 2006-2009, which Lora Koenig, a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center who contributed to the new findings, said likely reflects that warming is exerting a greater influence on the Greenland’s ice.
The Arctic is warming much more rapidly than the lower latitudes of the globe and the effects of climate change are generally much more pronounced throughout the region. Recent research has already shown that rapid changes is taking place in Greenland and massive yearly ice melt could be more likely by 2100.
That influence could potentially trigger feedbacks resulting in greater ice melt in Greenland and with it, higher sea level rise. But what exactly the new findings mean for sea level rise estimates is still unknown.
Firn at the mid-elevations of Greenland is a key defense in keeping meltwater from running off because it acts like a sponge, according to Mike MacFerrin, a CIRES researcher who presented another portion of the research at a press conference.
MacFerrin first discovered the ice layers – some of them up to 15 feet thick – in 2012 in west Greenland. That ice doesn’t have the same ability to absorb water, a reality made clear just a few months after MacFerrin’s discovery.