Greenland’s Ice Melting Events Getting More Frequent And Erratic: Study

About 79% of the area of Greenland is covered in ice. In the past 40 years, extreme ice melting events on this island have increased in frequency as well as intensity, says a new study, which used satellite data to map Greenland’s ice sheet runoff.

Greenland’s ice melting in the last decade contributed one-centimetre increase to the global sea levels. Photo by Mark Neal on

In the past four decades, meltwater runoff from the island has increased by 21%. Moreover, it has also become 60% more inconsistent, possibly making it more difficult to predict. The study suggests that the runoff from the last ten years was 3.5 trillion tonnes. The quantity of ice melt could cover the entire UK with 15 metres of meltwater. The runoff from 2011 to 2020 has also contributed to the increase of global sea levels by one centimetre.

“As we’ve seen with other parts of the world, Greenland is also vulnerable to an increase in extreme weather events. As our climate warms, it’s reasonable to expect that the instances of extreme melting in Greenland will happen more often – observations such as these are an important step in helping us to improve climate models and better predict what will happen this century,” said Dr. Thomas Slater, lead author of the study and a research fellow at the University of Leeds.

The study also noticed that one-third of the past decade’s ice melting can be attributed to two summers alone – 2012 and 2019. The records of these two years are higher than any registered in the past 40 years. Ice melt of 527 billion tonnes was recorded in the year 2012, while the lowest runoff of the decade was seen in 2017 at 247 billion tonnes. The decade average was 357 billion tonnes per year.

The study cites the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, as a significant reason for Greenland’s ice loss.

“Model estimates suggest that the Greenland ice sheet will contribute between about 3 and 23 cm to global sea-level rise by 2100. This prediction has a wide range, in part because of uncertainties associated with simulating complex ice melt processes, including those associated with extreme weather. These new spaceborne estimates of runoff will help us to understand these complex ice melt processes better, improve our ability to model them, and thus enable us to refine our estimates of future sea-level rise,” said co-author Dr. Amber Leeson.

Melting ice is a major factor contributing to the increasing sea levels globally. This increase in sea levels can have devastating consequences for islands and coastal communities, such as increasing the risk of floods, hurricanes, habitat loss for wildlife, and more. The increasing intensity of Greenland’s ice melt also hurts the marine ecosystems in the Arctic Ocean, thus hurting the communities that rely on it as a source of food and other livelihood essentials.

The results of this study are published in the Nature Communications journal.


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I am a simple writer who wishes to use her skill to create more awareness about the planet that offers us life.

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