'Not only is the Greenland ice sheet melting, but it's melting at a faster and faster pace'
Greenland lost one million tons of ice per minute throughout 2019.
According to a study, high temperatures saw Greenland lose enough ice to cover the US state of California in more than four feet of water in 2019 alone, the Independent reported.
New data from Nasa’s Grace satellites show Greenland’s ice sheet shrinking by 532 billion tons last year, with researchers dubbing it “shocking” and perhaps the biggest loss for centuries, if not millennia.
For context, the amount of glaciers that fell into the ocean would have filled seven Olympic-sized swimming pools per second. From data collected since 2003, the annual loss was an average of 255 billion tons – the amount lost in July last year alone.
The loss, attributed to weather phenomenon that have the capacity to exacerbate or subdue the effects of global temperature rises, comes despite evidence of many years in the 20th century in which Greenland gained ice.
"Not only is the Greenland ice sheet melting, but it's melting at a faster and faster pace," said study lead author Ingo Sasgen, a geoscientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany.
It comes amid concerns global glacier melt will cause sea levels rise to catastrophic heights for humanity. Across 2019 the melting of the island’s ice added 1.5 millimetres to global sea levels.
Study co-author Alex Gardner, a Nasa ice scientist, said “In our world it's huge, that's astounding,” adding that the expanding of a warming ocean and the impact of other ice sheets and glaciers contributing could lead to coastal flooding and other issues.
Researchers attributed Greenland’s catastrophic loss to “blocking patterns” in weather, contributing to warmer temperatures. Also, when snow on top of the ice melts, the darker ice below absorbs more of the sun’s heat.
In 2019 alone, around 96% of the ice sheet experienced melting, a massive difference compared to the average of 64% between 1981 and 2010.
Sasgen added: “If we look at the record melt years, the top five occurred in the last 10 years, and that is a concern. But we know what to do about it: reduce CO2 emissions.”
“If the country’s entire ice sheet melted, sea level would rise by six metres. However, we’re not at that point yet, and if we manage to curb carbon emissions, the melting will slow down.”