The extensive amount of ice loss in Greenland in the past 20 years is enough to flood the entire US in 1.5 feet of water.
The melting of Greenland’s massive ice sheet is occurring so rapidly that it is now the main factor in global sea level rise, according to new satellite data.
Based on new data compiled by Polar Portal, a joint project between four Danish government research institutions, the world’s largest island is losing its ice cap at a staggering rate. In the past 20 years, Greenland lost more than 5,100 billion tons (4,700 billion metric tons) of ice, an amount that is enough to flood the entire United States in 1.5 feet (0.5 metres) of water.
This extensive ice loss in Greenland has contributed to half an inch (1.2 centimetres) of global sea-level rise in just two decades and is now one of the main factors driving sea level rise, according to the US space agency NASA. The island nation is also on track to contribute three to five inches (seven to 13 cm) to global sea-level rise by the year 2100 as temperatures continue to warm.
The new data, which is based on observations taken by the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) fleet of satellites, showed that the ice melt is most severe around the coasts of the Arctic territory, where “independent observations also indicate that the ice is thinning, that the glacier fronts are retreating in fjords and on land, and that there is a greater degree of melting from the surface of the ice”.
This is the latest evidence that the Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else in the world, where a recent report goes as far as saying that it is warming four times faster than the rest of the globe.
Should the Greenland ice sheet melt completely, it is enough to increase global sea level by seven metres, while the ice sheet in Antarctica could result in a 50 metres-sea level rise, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Scientists are increasingly worried about the Thwaites Eastern Ice Shelf in Antarctica, which many are calling it the “Doomsday” glacier. The latest satellite images show cracks in the shelf that should the entire shelf collapses, sea levels would rise over two feet, endangering millions of people in coastal areas.