The Greenland ice sheet could raise sea levels by at least 270 millimeters

The team of glaciologists set up an automatic weather station on the snow above the snow line during the melt season. Image courtesy of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland

In a new study, scientists point out that the overall ice loss of the Greenland ice sheet, together with increased precipitation, ice flow emissions and meltwater runoff, will cause sea levels to rise by at least 274 millimeters, regardless of the warming projection scenario. The study was recently published in Nature Climate Change.

In the 1980s, the Greenland ice sheet began to lose more ice than it had condensed due to precipitation due to melting runoff and ice flow, resulting in an ice budget deficit in the Greenland ice sheet.

However, because existing models are not precise enough to measure land, atmosphere and ocean boundaries, researchers cannot accurately predict how Greenland will respond to climate change — a response that is critical to future sea-level rise.

In recent years (2000-2019), Greenland’s ice has developed an imbalance, so it is inevitable to correct itself by reducing the total mass by at least 3.3% to balance at the new average snow line. Image courtesy of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland

During melt season Professor Jason Box collects ice samples on the bare ice under the snowfield of West Greenland. Image courtesy of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland

Jason Box and colleagues at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland used climate data from 2000 to 2019 to calculate changes in the volume and area of the ice sheet that has been caused by ice imbalances in Greenland. They noted that ice surface ablation caused by meltwater runoff was the main driver of year-over-year changes in Greenland’s ice sheet quality budget.

In either future climate scenario, a mass loss in the Greenland ice sheet would result in a loss of 5,900 square kilometers of sea ice — equivalent to 3.3 percent of the loss of ice volume, raising sea levels by at least 274 millimeters.

Assuming that the 2012 high-value year for ice melt becomes common in the future, then as temperatures gradually rise in the 21st century, melt ice and subsequent sea level rise could reach 782 mm, which Box believes should serve as a warning for Greenland’s future. (Source: China Science Daily Feng Weiwei)

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