Greenland’s ice sheet, the world’s second largest, is losing volume at twice the pace it was in the 1980s, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Greenland’s glaciers, which dumped about 51 billion tons of ice into the ocean from 1980 to 1990, dumped 286 billion tons between 2010 and 2018, the research says. Of about 14 millimeters of sea-level increase caused by Greenland since 1972, half took place in the past eight years, according to the study.
The research indicates that the 1980s were the point at which the planet’s climate began to “drift significantly” from natural variability, Eric Rignot, one of the study’s coauthors, told The Washington Post.
“The entire periphery of Greenland is affected. I am particularly concerned about the northern regions, which host the largest amount of potential sea-level rise and are already changing fast,” Rignot said. “In Antarctica, some big sleeping giants in East Antarctica are waking up, in addition to a large part of West Antarctica being significantly affected. None of this is good news.”
Rignot further noted that certain glaciers are not yet losing much ice but are changing rapidly, including glaciers in the northeast and northwest of Greenland. Two of the glaciers each contain more than 1.6 feet of potential sea-level rise, according to the Post.
“If we do something now, it will take 30 years to affect the climate and another few decades to turn the melt down of glaciers, so probably half of that signal is already written in stone,” Rignot said. “But the impact sea level will have on humanity increases with every 10 [centimeters] of sea-level rise, and right now we are about to commit to multi-meter sea-level rise in the coming century if we don’t do something drastic.”