Greenland Ice Sheet Losing 30M Tons of Ice Per Hour

New study finds an increase to the amount previously estimated
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2024 3:00 AM CST
Greenland Ice Sheet Losing 30M Tons of Ice Per Hour
An iceberg floats in the Scoresby Sund, Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, in Greenland.   (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

A new study on Greenland's ice cap has disturbing implications: Researchers found it's losing more than 30 million tons of ice per hour, on average. That's a lot more than had previously been estimated, and it means more freshwater is going into the north Atlantic Ocean than previously thought—which experts fear could cause ocean currents to collapse, the Guardian reports. Researchers previously believed the ice sheet had lost 5,000 gigatons of ice in recent decades, but this research adds 1,000 gigatons to that, a 20% increase, the Washington Post reports. The reason for the bump: This new research accounts for ice lost at the edge of glaciers, where they meet water, rather than just changes in mass in the ice sheet's interior.

The study found almost every glacier in every part of the ice sheet is shrinking. "There's basically no part of Greenland that's safe from climate change," the lead author says. Researchers, referring to the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (Amoc) ocean currents, sound a warning: "There is some concern that any small source of freshwater may serve as a 'tipping point' that could trigger a full-scale collapse of the Amoc, disrupting global weather patterns, ecosystems, and global food security." Other researchers, however, say there is no evidence ocean circulation has been affected so far, and note that this is likely more of a long-term problem than an immediate one. (More Greenland stories.)

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