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Current Affairs

Greenland ice sheet melts

Date: 30 August 2020 Tags: Climate Change

Issue

The world’s second largest body of ice, the Greenland Ice Sheet, is melting at an unprecedented rate due to rising temperatures induced by climate change.

 

Background

The study suggests that the glacier is melting at such a rapid rate that the annual snowfall is not enough to replenish it anymore.

 

Details

  • Once the ice sheet melts completely in less than a hundred years, sea levels will rise drastically, leaving coastal cities across the globe completely submerged.

  • The team of researchers analysed 40 years-worth of monthly satellite data from more than 200 large glaciers across Greenland’s ice sheet, which are currently melting and draining into the ocean around the country.

  • The researchers measured the amount of ice that broke off from Greenland’s glaciers and ice shelves to form icebergs, floating freely in the ocean. They also observed the total amount of melted ice that directly mixed with the ocean water.

  • They went on to measure the amount of snowfall received in the region each year to assess the extent to which the glaciers were replenished after large swathes of ice were lost.

  • In the period between 1980 and 1990, researchers found that snowfall was largely able to replenish the amount of ice lost from the melting of glaciers.

  • During this time, ice sheets lost around 450 gigatons (about 450 billion tons) of ice each year, which was then recharged by ample snowfall.

  • Given the sweltering heat caused by rising temperatures over the last two decades, researchers believe that Greenland’s Ice Sheet will only be able to gain mass once every hundred years or so.

  • The study showed that climate change during recent centuries was not caused by random fluctuation, but instead by anthropogenic emissions of CO2, as well as other greenhouse gases.

  • With increased human activities, like burning fossil fuels, deforestation and farming, during and after the industrial age, the rise in temperature has become more marked.

  • The loss of ice over the years has been so monumental, that it has caused a change in the gravitational field over the country. After melting or breaking off from Greenland’s ice sheets, the frigid ice is carried by the Atlantic Ocean and then brought to the other oceans of the world.