Greenland Ice Sheet Warmest In At Least 1,000 Years As Scientists Warn Melting Ice Will Accelerate Sea-Level Rise
Recent temperatures in Greenland’s ice sheet—one of the primary culprits behind rising seas—were the warmest they’ve been in at least 1,000 years, according to a new report, as scientists warn the melting of Greenland’s ice could threaten coastal communities around the world.
Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany analyzed Greenland’s massive ice sheet by drilling up to 100 feet into its core to reconstruct the temperature of north and central Greenland back to the year 1000.
Between 2001 and 2011, the ice was roughly 1.7 degrees Celsius (3 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer, on average, than it was between 1961 and 1990, and 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than in the 20th century, overall, according to the study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Researchers attribute Greenland’s “recent extreme” temperature rise to human-caused global warming, although they note a slower long-term rate of warming has been observed on the island since 1800.
The warming was likely also affected by periods of warmer weather caused by a phenomenon known as Greenland blocking, a meteorological event that leaves high pressure systems over Greenland, pushing warmer air farther north.
Antarctica and Greenland—the “largest contributor” to sea-level rise, lead author Maria Horhold told CNN—contain the most fresh water on Earth’s surface, mostly locked in vast ice sheets. Scientists believe their glaciers, along with others in Alaska, Nepal and the Alps, as well as arctic permafrost in Siberia, will contribute most heavily to rising seas. A total loss of Greenland’s ice could bring the world’s oceans up roughly seven meters, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—a devastating blow to coastal communities, which are already grappling with the effects of rising seas and intensifying storm systems.
Scientists predict the world’s temperature will increase by nearly 3 degrees Celsius by 2100 if current emission levels continue, according to a U.N. report released last October, with greenhouse gas emissions rising 10.6% above 2010 levels by 2030—well above the 43% reduction the U.N. said was necessary to meet the monumental Paris Climate Agreement goal of capping rising temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. That rise in temperature could be felt the most around the Earth’s poles. According to a study published in Communications Earth & Environment last August, the Arctic has been warming nearly four times faster than the rest of the world since 1979—a potential death sentence for the Arctic’s ice sheet.
20. That’s how many inches Horhold told CNN she expects the sea to rise by the end of the century as a direct result of melting ice on Greenland. That rise in sea levels will affect “millions of people” in low-lying coastal areas, if carbon emissions continue at their current pace, she said.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Will Rise 10% When They Urgently Need To Drop, U.N. Warns (Forbes)
Arctic Heating Up Four Times Faster Than Rest Of Planet, Study Finds (Forbes)