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Greenland lost 20% more ice than previously estimated: Study

A new study has revealed that nearly every glacier in Greenland has thinned or retreated over the past few decades

The researchers found that over 1000 gigatons or 20%, of ice around the edges of Greenland had been lost over the past four decades(AFP)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 18.01.2024  |  06:02 PM IST

Due to global warming, glaciers in Greenland are melting five times faster than 20 years ago, scientists from the University of Copenhagen revealed in November last year. Now, a new study shows that climate change has caused Greenland's ice sheet to lose 20% more ice than previously thought.

Earlier studies have shown that about 5,000 gigatons of ice have been lost from the surface of the Greenland ice sheet in the past two decades. According to a Reuters report, if the ancient ice sheet were to melt away completely, it would raise sea levels by at least 20 feet.

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For the study, researchers at US space agency Nasa collected about 240,000 satellite images of glacier terminus positions—where glaciers meet the ocean—from 1985 to 2022. "Nearly every glacier in Greenland has thinned or retreated over the past few decades," lead author Chad Greene told AFP. There aren’t any exceptions, and this is happening everywhere, simultaneously, Greene added.

The researchers found that over 1000 gigatons or 20%, of ice around the edges of Greenland had been lost over the past four decades. Notably, this has not been accounted for. The findings were published in the journal Nature.

As the ice at the edges was already in the water, the researchers said this would have had a "minimal" direct impact on sea level rise. However, it could make it easier for glaciers to more easily slip into the sea, the AFP report said.

The glaciers in Greenland are most susceptible to seasonal changes. They expand in winter and retreat in summer and are significantly affected by global warming. The melting of Greenland’s ice sheet, the second-largest in the world, is estimated to have contributed to more than 20% of recorded sea level rise since 2002, AFP added.

Glaciers across the globe are experiencing loss of ice due to the increasing impact of climate change. 

In November 2023, the United States National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said sea ice in Antarctica hit record-low levels last winter. In 2023, sea ice covered less than 17 million square kilometres of the Antarctic, which is 1 million square kilometres less than the previous record low set in 1986, preliminary findings by NSIDC at the University of Colorado Boulder revealed, a Bloomberg report said.

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Loss of ice and consequent rise in sea levels can significantly intensify flooding in coastal and island communities putting communities at a major risk.

Also read: Climate change killed thousands of emperor penguin chicks in Antarctica last year