Global Warming

Greenland Is Melting Faster Than Ever

Greenland is melting faster today than it has at any time in the last 350 years, and probably much longer, new research finds.

Surface melt from the icy island has increased 50 percent in the last 20 years compared with the early 1800s, before the industrial era, researchers report (Dec. 5) in the journal Nature. The runoff alone is now contributing about a millimeter to the global average sea level per year.

Scientists tracking Greenland’s ice by satellite and on the ground have seen increasingly dire ice loss. Greenland loses ice both when icebergs calve off glaciers and when ice on the surface melts and flows to the sea as water. The meltwater flow is how the majority of the ice vanishes.

The amount of annual meltwater runoff from Greenland has increased from between 200 and 250 gigatons a year before humans started burning fossil fuels in large amounts to 350 gigatons a year today. It takes about 360 gigatons of meltwater to raise the global sea level by a millimeter.

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