A timeline of projected ice mass loss in Greenland indicates that by 2100, the island’s ice loss will be the most rapid in the past 12,000 years.
According to a new study from the State University of New York in Buffalo and published in Nature, Greenland glacier melt since the earl 1990’s is currently contributing up to 0.7 millimeters per annum to global sea level rise. The new research examines this relatively rapid melting taking into account a 3,000 year-long warm period.
The team examined past ice sheets, evident in rocky outcrops known as moraines, and created a “master timeline” of ice sheet changes that spans almost 12,000 years through 2100. This information was combined with ice physics simulations and fine-tuned climate predictions that improve on previous climate predictions by using spatial variations in temperature and precipitation across the island.
The data indicates that during the past warm period (about 10,000 to 7,000 years ago), Greenland lost ice at an estimated rate of about 6,000 billion metric tons each century. However, when information from the past 20 years is included in the calculation the indicates an increase in the pace of loss to about 6,100 billion metric tons per century. Researchers attribute this increase to the presence of greater greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
Going forward the study suggests that, at low rate of GHG, ice melt would be about 8800 billion tons per century; higher GHG could lead to 35,900 billion tons per century.
Lower emissions could slow the loss, but “no matter what humanity does, the ice will melt this century at a faster clip than it did during that warm period,” lead researcher Jason Briner says.