Melting of Greenland's ice sheet has 'gone into overdrive'

Melting of Greenland's ice sheet has 'gone into overdrive'

Surface melting across the the mile-thick ice sheet increased in the 19th century as human activity started to warm the climate, but ramped up in the 20th and early 21st centuries and shows no signs of abating, scientists said.

'As a result, Greenland melt is adding to sea level more than any time during the last three-and-a-half centuries, if not thousands of years.

Scientists measured ice loss at Greenland using a drill the size of a traffic light pole to extract ice cores from the ice sheet itself, as well as an adjacent coastal ice cap.

Study lead author Luke Trusel, of Rowan University in New Jersey, US, said: 'Melting of the ice sheet has gone into overdrive.

"We are seeing levels of Greenland ice melt and runoff that are already unprecedented over recent centuries (and likely millennia) in direct response to warming global temperatures since the pre-Industrial era", Sarah Das, co-author of the report and scientist at the USA -based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said in a statement.

Lead by glaciologist and climate scientist Luke Trusel of Rowan University, a team of US and European researchers analyzed more than three centuries of melt patterns in ice cores from western Greenland.

Speaking at United Nations climate talks in Poland on Monday, the 92-year-old broadcaster (above) blamed humanity for the "global disaster" and "our greatest threat in thousands of years".

Because of much of Greenland's ice remains frozen all year round, the cores contained evidence of past melting as far back as the 17th Century.

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Because of a "nonlinear response of surface melting to increasing summer air temperatures, continued atmospheric warming will lead to rapid increases in [Greenland ice sheet] runoff and sea-level contributions", the study said.

Rising seas threaten low-lying cities, islands and industries worldwide. Thicker melt layers represented years of higher melting, while thinner sections indicated years with less melting.

"We have had a sense that there's been a great deal of melting in recent decades, but we previously had no basis for comparison with melt rates going further back in time", he said.

Dr Trusel said: "To be able to answer what might happen to Greenland next, we need to understand how Greenland has already responded to climate change".

The researchers also warned that Greenland, which locks up the equivalent of around 30ft (7m) of sea level rise, is becoming more sensitive to warming than it was in the past.

"Even a very small change in temperature caused an exponential increase in melting in recent years", she said.

They found that increases in melting closely follow the start of industrial-era warming in the Arctic in the mid-1800s but the magnitude of the melt has exceeded natural variability in the past few decades.

Researchers from the MIT-WHO Joint Program, University of Washington, Wheaton College, University of Leige, Desert Research Institute, and Utrecht University also worked on the study.

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