40-Year Climate Crisis: Greenland Loses 1,140 Billion Tons of Ice

Greenland, the world’s largest island and home to the second-largest ice sheet after Antarctica, is losing ice at an alarming rate due to the climate crisis. A new study by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory reveals that the Greenland ice sheet has lost about 1,140 billion tons of ice in just 40 years, which is 21% more than previous estimates .

The study, published in the journal Nature, used satellite images and artificial intelligence to track the positions of more than 200 glaciers around Greenland from 1985 to 2022. It found that out of 207 glaciers, 179 have retreated significantly, especially in the narrow fjords below sea level where ancient glacial ice once stood .

The researchers also found that the ice retreat has accelerated since 2000, with some glaciers losing more than 10 kilometers of length in less than two decades. The most affected glacier was Zachariae Isstrom in northeast Greenland, followed by Jakobshavn Isbrae and Humboldt Gletscher. Only one glacier, Qajuuttap Sermia, showed any growth, but its gains were minimal compared to the overall losses.

This massive loss of ice does not directly contribute to sea level rise, since it breaks off from areas already submerged or floating. However, it has significant implications for the global ocean circulation and climate system. The influx of freshwater into the North Atlantic could weaken the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a crucial component of the global oceanic “conveyor belt” that transports heat and nutrients across the oceans . A collapse of the AMOC could disrupt weather patterns, marine ecosystems and human activities around the world.

The study highlights the urgent need for action to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis on Greenland and other vulnerable regions. The authors call for more research and monitoring of the glaciers and their interactions with the ocean, as well as improved models and projections of future ice loss and sea level rise.

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