Greenland is the world’s biggest island, a huge ice sheet. Scientists, however, have found that the Greenland ice sheet is melting 3 times faster than they thought, in some places, it is more than 10,00 feet thick, and if it were to melt completely it could potentially raise sea levels by 23 feet.
During the last century, Greenland lost more than 9,000 billion tons of ice, that equates to a 25-millimeter rise in sea level. The Greenland ice sheet is about 656,000 square miles, whereas the Antarctic Ice sheet is considerably bigger, it covers 7.2 million cubic miles. And if it were to melt, it would raise sea levels 187 feet. This would have a devastating impact on life on earth. And we know this because of the data generated from NASA’s GRACE satellites and from all the GPS stations scattered around Greenland’s coastline.
So how is it happening? In short, there are two processes underway.
The ice-sheet is over 3,000 meters thick and remains stable because a good portion is elevated into cooler altitudes. But, with warmer ambient temperatures in the atmosphere, as the ice melts, it sinks to lower altitudes and therefore warmer temperatures. In turn, the ice-sheet melts faster.
A new study by scientists at both Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Universidad Complutense de Madrid has projected that within 2,000 years, a mere blink of the Earth’s life, the Greenland ice-sheet might have disappeared altogether.
Scary news! They say that the temperature threshold for a complete melt is in the range of 0.8-3.2 degrees Celsius of global warming. The study’s best estimate suggests 1.9 degrees Celsius.
Notably, some of the world’s smallest island states are facing that risk now as sea levels rise; Papua New Guinea, Tonga, The Solomon Islands, Samoa, the Maldives and many more.
Greenland is the same size as France, Great Britain, Italy, Austria, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Belgium combined
So as much as these are just large figures and it all sounds sort of scary. Because the nature of climate change is so slow, the problems are happening slowly to the eye. But if we don’t stop and drastically reduce the amount of fossil fuel we currently burn, we could face climatic and nature driven problems that we cannot turn back from.