Scientists are sounding the alarm bell after new research reveals that Greenland is losing ice seven times faster than in the 1990s. If it remains at this rate, 100 million will be exposed to flooding each year by the end of the century.
A team of 96 polar scientists from 50 international organizations have produced the most complete picture of Greenland ice loss to date. And the results are extremely worrying.
Their findings, which were published in the scientific journal Nature, show that Greenland has lost 3.8 trillion tons of ice since 1992 – enough to push global sea levels up by 10.6 millimeters. The rate of ice loss has risen from 33 billion tons per year in the 1990s to 254 billion tons per year in the last decade, which corresponds to a seven-fold increase within three decades.
In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that global sea levels will rise by 60 centimeters by 2100, putting 360 million people at risk of annual coastal flooding. But this new study shows that Greenland’s ice losses are rising faster than expected and are instead tracking the IPCC’s high-end climate warming scenario, which predicts 7 centimeters more.
“As a rule of thumb, for every centimeter rise in global sea level another six million people are exposed to coastal flooding around the planet,” said Professor Andrew Shepherd at the University of Leeds, one of the study’s co-leaders.
“On current trends, Greenland ice melting will cause 100 million people to be flooded each year by the end of the century, so 400 million in total due to all sea level rise.”
Shepherd described the predicted flooding as “devastating for local communities”.
Image credit: Ian Joughin, University of Washington