The consequences of rising sea levels are becoming more apparent every year. Picture: Aline Dassel/Pixabay
The consequences of rising sea levels are becoming more apparent every year. Picture: Aline Dassel/Pixabay

PICS AND VIDEOS - We have been warned: Greenland's ice sheets shrinking at a record pace

By Dominic Naidoo Time of article published Aug 10, 2021

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Sea levels are rising dangerously and climate scientists have warned that the unprecedented acceleration in ice melt in Greenland could have devastating effects on all forms of habitats.

They predict that at the current rate of ice melt sea levels are set to rise globally in the next 80 years by an average 7cm to 12cm rise.

And even now, the consequences of rising sea levels are becoming more apparent every year.

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Even a small increase in sea levels have devastating impacts on coastal habitats such as destructive erosion, wetland flooding, aquifer and agricultural soil contamination with salt, and lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants.

Higher sea levels are also coinciding with more erratic and severe hurricanes and typhoons that move more slowly and drop more rain, contributing to more powerful storm surges which flood low-lying coastal areas causing widespread devastation.

And things don’t look like they will get better. A study into ice loss in Greenland revealed shocking levels of melting which set a new record.

Greenland’s ice sheet lost 532 billion tons of ice in 2019 alone, the most ice lost since records began in 1948.

This surpassed the previous record of 464 billion tons set in 2012.

To put that number into perspective, 532 billion tons of ice is equal to 3.192 billion Blue Whales, the largest creature to have ever lived on earth.

These findings were published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment in August 2020. According to the results of the study, the record ice melt “will likely raise average global sea level by 1.5 millimetres”.

The National Aeronautical Space Agency (Nasa) Global Climate Change used a hypothetical comparison, explaining that all the water from the melted ice would cover the entire state of California in more than 1.2 metres of water.

It was also reported that Greenland lost an annual average of 25 billion tons of ice during the 1990s. This figure has increased drastically since then with the current average annual loss of ice being 234 billion tons.

Climate scientists believe that this acceleration in ice melt will result in an average 7cm to 12cm rise in sea levels globally by 2100.

These predictions are in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s worst-case scenarios.

The accelerated ice melt in Greenland was caused by unusual weather patterns, where high-pressure air lingered, bringing warm air up from the region of the equator. This pushed the temperature up by 40 degrees Fahrenheit or 4.45 degrees Celsius above normal temperatures.

The melting point of ice is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius.

These conditions coupled with frequently cloudless skies and below-average snowfall resulted in perfect conditions for melting across most of the Greenland ice sheet.

In order to provide accurate ice-loss estimates for the study, a team of scientists from around the world enlisted the help of two satellites courtesy of Nasa. The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) satellites provided accurate, up-to-date measurements of ice loss which scientists combined with computer-generated data to simulate average snowfall and ice melt on Greenland.

Orbiting above Greenland between 2002 and 2017, the twin Grace satellites measured the gravitational pull exerted by massive bodies such as ice sheets. According to Nasa, “as one satellite passed over a gravitational "bump" on earth's surface such as a thick sheet of ice, it would speed up a bit, changing the distance between it and its twin. Precise measurements of these changes would yield the "weight," or mass, of the ice sheet below.”

Behind only the Antarctic, Greenland's ice sheet is the second largest in the world. It is located high in the Arctic region, where average temperatures have risen 2 degrees Celsius since the mid-19th century, twice the global average.

It is increased heat that is causing the ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica to melt more quickly, say scientists believe meltwater from above and seawater from below is seeping beneath Greenland's ice sheets, causing them to move more quickly into the sea.

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