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Study reveals alarming rate of ice loss

12 December 2019 13:12
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Study reveals alarming rate of ice loss

BEIJING. KAZINFORM - Scientists studying ice loss on the world's largest island, Greenland, have issued a stark warning about the consequences for global sea levels after it was revealed that the current rate of depletion is seven times what it was a generation ago, China Daily reports.

International experts from 50 different organizations were part of the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise, also known as Imbie. They monitored all satellite observations of the landmass taken over the last 26 years and say that whereas in the early 90s the rate of depletion was around one millimeter per decade, the figure is now closer to seven millimeters.

If this keeps up, it would mean Greenland alone could contribute an additional seven centimeters to global sea levels over the next century.

Erik Ivins, of the United States' Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the fact that these findings were based on actual observations of events, rather than a prediction based on computer modelling, made them all the more alarming.

«While computer simulation allows us to make projections from climate change scenarios, the satellite measurements provide prima facie evidence,» he added.

Currently around one billion people live less than 10 meters above global high tide marks, with one quarter of that number below one meter.

«The simple formula is that around the planet, six million people are brought into a flooding situation for every centimeter of sea-level rise. So, when you hear about a centimeter rise, it does have impacts,» British scientist Andy Shepherd, from Leeds University, told the BBC.

What is happening in Greenland is significantly affected by the warming of the Arctic region, where temperatures have risen by 0.75 degrees over the past decade.

Imbie analyzed 11 satellite monitoring missions carried out between 1992 and 2018, combined with climate studies and weather observations, revealing that Greenland has lost 3.8 trillion tons since the study period began, which is equivalent to a sea-level rise of 10.6mm, and what is more alarming is that the study suggests that rate is accelerating.

Team member Ruth Mottram, from the Danish Meteorological Institute, said surface ice melting and the loosening of icebergs were equally to blame for the problem, and estimated this year's loss of ice at around 370 billion tons.

«Greenland is losing ice in two main ways-one is by surface melting and that water runs off into the ocean; and the other is by the calving of icebergs and then melting where the ice is in contact with the ocean,» she said. «The long-term contribution from these two processes is roughly half and half.»

Climate scientist from the British Antarctic Survey Louise Sime added: «This finding should be of huge concern for all those who will be affected by sea level rise. If this very high rate of ice loss continues, it is possible that new tipping points may be breached sooner than we previously thought.»

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