A foot or more of global sea level rise is now locked in due to widespread Greenland ice loss, and new research indicates that even if the world stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, there would be no way to halt it.
Greenland ice loss
The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that the overall ice loss from Greenland’s ice sheet will trigger at least 10 inches of sea level rise, no matter the climate warming scenarios.
That’s generally the same amount that global seas have already risen over the last century from Greenland, Antarctica and thermal expansion (when ocean water expands as it warms) combined.
Researchers from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland observed changes in ice-sheet volume in and around Greenland and saw that meltwater runoff has been the primary driver.
This water is technically already under the bridge.
While the authors did not specify a timeline, they predict that the change in sea levels can occur between now and the end of the century.
The research was solely to estimate a minimum, or “a very conservative lower bound,” of sea level rise from melting in Greenland, “and in the virtually-certain event that climate continues warming, the sea level commitment only grows,” Box said.
This will cause high tide floods to occur more than 10 times as frequently, and allow storm surges to spread further inland, according to the report.
Researchers point out that a sea level rise of 20 feet doesn’t mean it will rise evenly around the globe, leaving some places devastated as the sea level falls in others.
As places such as Greenland lose ice, for example, they also lose the ice’s gravitational pull on water, meaning Greenland’s sea level is falling as the level rises elsewhere, said William Colgan, senior researcher at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.
The rate of that change is the problem, Colgan told CNN’s Bill Weir during a research trip in the summer of 2021.
Before human-caused climate change kicked in, temperatures near 32 degrees Fahrenheit in Greenland were unheard of.
Emissions curbed immediately
Several days of unusually warm weather in northern Greenland recently triggered rapid melting, with temperatures around 60 degrees — 10 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year, scientists told CNN.
The amount of ice that melted in Greenland between July 15 and 17 alone — 6 billion tons of water per day — would be enough to fill 7.2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Global scientists have said the trends at which climate change is accelerating are quite clear, and that unless emissions are curbed immediately, many more extreme melting events will continue to occur more intensely and frequently.
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