Greenland Ice Sheet at Warmest Level in Last 1,000 Years – Study

The Greenland ice sheet was warmer in the first decade of this century compared to any other period in the past 1,000 years, the study found.

Researchers have also calculated that north-central Greenland was on average 1.5°C warmer between 2001 and 2011 than it was in the 20th century.

They said the findings, published in the journal Nature, suggest human-led activities could be impacting the region and accelerating the rate at which more ice is being lost from the plate.

More than three million cubic kilometers of water are stored in the Greenland ice sheet.

If global emission rates remain unchanged, the Greenland ice sheet is estimated to raise global mean sea level by 50 centimeters by 2100, potentially flooding many coastal cities around the world.

As part of the study, the scientists analyzed data from ice cores dating back more than a thousand years.

Ice cores — cylinders of ice drilled out of the Greenland ice sheet — are essentially frozen time capsules, allowing scientists to reconstruct climate far into the past.


Ice laboratory of the Alfred-Wegener-Institut Workplace for the examination and preparation of polar ice cores for sawing ((Alfred-Wegener-Institut)

dr Maria Horhold, glaciologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany and lead author of the study, said: “The time series we have obtained from ice cores now continuously spans more than 1,000 years, from year 1000 to 2011.

“These data show that the warming in the years 2001-2011 differs significantly from the natural fluctuations of the last 1,000 years.

“Although grimly anticipated given global warming, we were surprised at how obvious this difference really was.”

In addition to temperature, the team also reconstructed the ice sheet’s melt production.

The results show that melting in Greenland has increased significantly since the 2000s and is now a major contributor to global sea level rise, the researchers said.


Glaciologist Sepp Kipfstuhl from the Alfred Wegener Institute at work in the ice laboratory (Alfred Wegener Institute)

Maria Horhold added: “We were amazed to see how closely inland temperatures are linked to the Greenland-wide meltwater runoff – which eventually occurs in areas of low elevation along the edge of the ice sheet near the coast.”

Commenting on the research, Professor Andrew Shepherd, Director of the Center for Polar Observation and Modeling at the University of Leeds, said: “There is ample evidence that the Arctic has been warming rapidly in recent decades.

“This study fills an important knowledge gap by showing that Greenland has also warmed – it is now hotter than at any time in the last 1,000 years.

“But the ice cores used in this study were collected more than a decade ago, and temperatures have continued to rise since then.

“We are now beginning to see the first major effects of this warming on the ice sheet as glaciers in northern Greenland have begun to accelerate.

“It’s a timely reminder that even the coldest parts of our planet are not isolated from the effects of global warming, and if it does, the effects will of course hit our doorsteps immediately as sea levels rise.” Greenland Ice Sheet at Warmest Level in Last 1,000 Years – Study

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