A new study that combines satellite data with high-precision numerical models estimates that the loss of ice from the northeast Greenland glaciers will be, by the end of this century, 6 times faster than previously estimated.
The work, published this Wednesday in the magazine ‘Nature’, calculates that this melting will raise the level of the oceans between 13.5 and 15.5 additional millimeters between now and the year 2100, an increase equivalent to that generated by all the melted water on the Greenland ice sheet in the last half century. “Our previous projections of Greenland ice loss up to 2100 were vastly underestimated”, says the study’s first author, Professor Shfaqat Abbas of the Technical University of Denmark.
The researcher stresses that most models are based on observations of the frontal area of the ice sheet, which is “easily accessible”. However, 200 kilometers inland from northeast Greenland, in one of the most hostile and remote areas on the planet, behind the Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden and Zachariae Isstrom glaciers, conditions are worse than previously thought.
Using data from GPS satellites, along with elevation measurements from CryoSat-2 and a high-resolution numerical model, scientists have produced new estimates of the region’s ice mass evolution. “Our data shows that what we can see in the frontal zone also extends into the heart of the ice sheet”, Abbas says in a statement from his university. “We can see how the whole basin is getting thinner”, he adds.
Every year, the glaciers retreat further into the terrain and “this will continue for the next decades and centuries,” says the scientist, who warns that “under the current climatic pressure it is difficult to conceive how this ice retreat is going to stop”.