Energy & Environment

NASA data reveals Greenland lost 600B tons of ice last summer

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Greenland lost 600 billion tons of ice last summer due to an exceptionally warm season, according to a study released Wednesday. 

Last summer’s ice loss in Greenland is enough to raise global sea levels by nearly a 10th of an inch — or 2.2 millimeters — in two months, based on a study by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of California, Irvine.

“We knew this past summer had been particularly warm in Greenland, melting every corner of the ice sheet,” lead author Isabella Velicogna, senior project scientist at NASA’s JPL and a professor at University of California, Irvine, said in a release. “But the numbers really are enormous.”

The ice losses last summer are more than double Greenland’s 2002-2019 yearly average, according to the study. The study also found that Antarctica continues to lose mass, as well. 

“In Antarctica, the mass loss in the west proceeds unabated, which will lead to an even further increase in sea level rise,” Velicogna said. “But we also observe a mass gain in the Atlantic sector of East Antarctica caused by an uptick in snowfall, which helps mitigate the enormous increase in mass loss that we have seen in the last two decades on other parts of the continent.”

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters

The data was drawn from satellites designed to measure changes to the earth’s gravitational pull that result from changes in mass, including water. 

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) was launched in 2002 and decommissioned in October 2017. It was followed by the GRACE Follow On (GRACE-FO) based on similar technology and launched in May 2018. 

The study used independent data to test and confirm that the GRACE and GRACE-FO data over Greenland and Antarctica were consistent because of the brief gap between the satellites. 

Velicogna said the data lined up well, even at the regional area. 

“It is a tribute to the great effort by the project, engineering and science teams to make the mission successful,” she said.

Tags Antarctica Climate change Effects of global warming Greenland Greenland Greenland ice sheet NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory sea level rise

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