Between 2011 and 2014 Greenland shed 1 trillion tons of ice which corresponds to twice the average of the preceding two decades, according to new data from the European Space Agency (ESA).
The findings, published in Geophysical Research Letters on Tuesday (July 12), combines data from the ESA’s CyroSat mission with a regional climate model to map changes in Greenland ice-sheet mass.
It is the most detailed picture of ice loss from Greenland to date, according to the space agency’s researchers.
“CryoSat’s radar really brings into focus our view of the ice sheet, revealing which glaciers are exhibiting the greatest signs of change,” said lead author Dr Malcolm McMillan from the UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds.
“This helps us to study Greenland’s individual outlet glaciers, which in turn allows us to better understand the contribution they have made to global sea-level rise,” he added.
The study also shows large variations in the amount of ice loss from year to year, with the highest losses occurring in 2012 when summer temperatures hit record highs, demonstrating Greenland’s sensitivity to sudden changes in the surrounding environment, according to the paper.
CryoSat’s measurement of Greenland ice losses are in close agreement with those computed from NASA’s GRACE mission, which carries sensors that are specially designed to weigh changes at the scale of the entire ice sheet.
The Greenland ice sheet is the second largest in the world after the Antarctic sheet. – Reuters