The Greenland ice sheet lost 532 billion tonnes of ice in 2019. The rate of melting has been monitored since 2003 and 2019’s ice loss was more than double the average of 255 billion tonnes and broke the previous record, set in 2012, by 15%.
As a result of warm air being kept over Greenland by blocking weather systems for longer than normal in 2019, over 95% of the ice sheet underwent melting in 2019, compared with an average of64% for 1981 to 2010. The blocking patterns also reduced the amount of snow to fall on Greenland, so less new ice than normal was added.
The scientists who published the new data in the Nature journal Communications Earth & Environment are using data from the GRACE and GRACE-FO (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment – Follow On) satellites to observe the ice melt using satellite imagery. Greenland’s ice loss in 2019 is sufficient to raise global sea levels by 1.5mm.
In 2017 and 2018, ice loss in Greenland were actually lower than in any other 2 year period since 2003, so the 2019 return to exceptionally high levels of melting is a growing concern.
Scientists and environmentalists are concerned that if the ice loss continues on its current trend, a further 25 million people each year could experience coastal flooding by 2100.
However, Dr Ingo Sasgen or the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, who is one of the report’s authors says that there is no need for humans to abandon hope. Slowing, the ice melt is in our power. “if we reduce CO2, and we reduce or limit global warming, then also the risk for huge contributions [of melt water] from Greenland in the near future will also be reduced.", he said.
Photo from NASA: Satellite imagery shows melting ice on the Greenland Ice Sheet.