Greenland Is Losing 200 Billion Tons Of Ice Every Year

Greenland Ice Melt Global Warming Climate ChangeAn iceberg melts in Kulusuk Bay, eastern Greenland

Photo: AP Photo/John McConnico

The second largest piece of land ice on Earth covers Greenland and it is melting.These polar ice sheets, like the one in Greenland and the largest in Antarctica, are a major contributor to the rise of global sea levels — a dangerous consequence of global warming.

New data from Princeton University show just how fast Greenland is melting.

Authors of the study, Christopher Harig and Frederik Simons, used data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, also known as GRACE, collected between April 2002 to August 2011. GRACE is a pair of satellites that accurately map the Earth’s gravity fields. These measurements provide information about the distribution of mass on and around Earth. The ice sheets are big enough that they impact the Earth’s mass in certain areas.

The latest data was just published today, Nov 19, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The loss of ice during the 108 months of data was about 200 billion tons of mass per year with an acceleration rate of about 9 billion tons of mass per year. The data from GRACE provides the most accurate rate of mass loss in Greenland which previous research has ranged from 161 to 220 billion tons of ice per year, and confirms the ice change is concentrated in the southeast and northwest coasts of the ice sheet.

Although Greenland is losing mass many are quick to point out the the ice depth in the centre of the sheet has been steadily increasing about two inches per year over the past decade. Previous research published in 2005 in the Journal of Glaciology suggests this is due to an increase in precipitation in that area, and doesn’t mean the rest of the sheet isn’t melting at an alarming rate.

Although the study does not say how much the loss contributes to sea levels, the Daily Mail reports that levels have risen about 2.3 millimeters a year from 2005 to 2010 and the rise is due to the melting of the ice caps and glaciers.

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