Around 400 million people will be exposed to coastal flooding each year by the end of the century if Greenland continues losing ice at its current rate, scientists have warned.
Several large glaciers account for the biggest ice losses - with Jakobshavn Glacier, in central Greenland, leading the way.
Drone footage shows extent of flooding in South YorkshirePolitical heavyweights ignite "quiet" Harrogate electoral battleAnalysis indicated rise in air and ocean temperatures caused the surface ice to melt and increased glacial flow. This study condenses the available data and provides a consensus view regarding Greenland's ice loss - enabling more accurate projections of future sea rise to be made. Together with Antarctica's ice sheet, it contains more than 99% of the world's fresh water. Therefore, finding out how much ice it has lost so far is hugely important for us scientists who are trying to determine how much it will contribute to sea level rise in future.
For example, a rise of 60cm by the year 2100, as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), would put 200 million people at risk of permanent inundation and 360 million people at risk of annual flooding.
The Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE), led by Professor Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds and Dr. Erik Ivins at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, compared and combined data from 11 satellites - including ESA's ERS-1, ERS-2, Envisat and Cryosat missions, as well as the Copernicus Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 missions - to monitor changes in the ice sheet's volume, flow and gravity.
If Greenland's ice losses continue to accelerate, millions more people will be subjected the effects of sea level rise. "[These impacts] are happening and will be devastating for coastal communities".
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In a paper published today in Nature, an worldwide team of 89 polar scientists, working in collaboration with ESA and NASA, have produced the most complete picture of Greenland ice loss to date. Sea level rises are driven not only by melting ice but by the thermal expansion of the seas as they warm.
By far the largest uncertainty in sea-level projections concerns the ice stored in Antarctica and Greenland, both of which have complex interactions with the climate system and are hard to model.
The midnight sun casts a golden glow on an iceberg and its reflection in Disko Bay, Greenland.
Ice losses peaked at 335 billion tonnes in 2011 - 10 times the rate of the 1990s - during a period of intense surface melting, it said. Although the rate of ice loss dropped to an average 238 billion tonnes per year since then, this remains seven times higher and does not include all of 2019, which could set a new high due to widespread summer melting. "I would expect a similar increase in Greenland mass loss for 2019", Aðalgeirsdóttir added. Their satellite observations show that both melting and ice discharge from Greenland have increased since observations started.
In some cases, scientists tracked how rapidly ice is flowing toward the sea; in others, they sought to measure how the loss of ice has decreased the total mass of the ice sheet, based on the gravitational tugs it makes on satellites positioned high above.