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Scientists Using Satellites Just Got a Much Clearer Picture of How Fast Greenland’s Ice Sheet Is Melting

| Nov. 12, 2021

The new study mostly confirmed previous estimates with greater precision — but also found more variability.

More than 3.8 trillion tons of ice has melted from the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet and run into the ocean over the past decade, driven in large part by human-caused climate change, a new study from the University of Leeds and other institutions has found.

That’s enough runoff to cover the entire United Kingdom in some 50 feet of meltwater.

The new study is the first to measure the summer melt loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet directly using satellites. It mostly confirms previous regional climate estimates, but it also found more variability — variability that isn’t yet accounted for in global climate models. The new satellite measurements of runoff should help refine and improve future global projections of sea level rise.

“We find extreme melting events in Greenland are becoming more frequent and more intense as the climate warms. This has significant implications for Greenland’s potential sea level contribution, as it will become dominated by meltwater runoff this century,” said Thomas Slater, lead author of the study. “Raising sea level increases flood risks worldwide” and also disrupts marine ecosystems in the Arctic Ocean, he added. The new research was published recently in Nature Communications and funded by the European Space Agency using measurements from ESA’s CryoSat-2 satellite mission.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Russell, Cristine.“Scientists Using Satellites Just Got a Much Clearer Picture of How Fast Greenland’s Ice Sheet Is Melting.” ArcticToday, November 12, 2021.