Greenland’s ice seems less vulnerable than feared to a runaway melt that would drive up world sea levels, according to a study showing that a surge of ice loss had petered out. It is too early to proclaim the ice sheet’s future doom caused by climate change as stated by Kurt Kjaer from University of Copenhagen.
An examination of old photos taken from planes revealed a sharp thinning of glaciers in north-west Greenland from 1985 to 1993. Another pulse of ice loss in the area lasted from 2005 to 2010.
The discovery of fluctuations casts doubt on projections that Greenland could be headed for an unstoppable meltdown, triggered by manmade global warming. Greenland contains enough ice to raise sea levels by 7 meters if it all thawed. Kjaer told Reuters that ice loss starts and then it stops. This is a break from thinking that it is something that starts, accelerates and will consume Greenland all at once. However, Kjaer noted that the ice sheet did not get bigger in the pause between the pulses of ice loss. He said satellite data of Greenland’s ice only dated back to about 2000 and the use of aerial photos had extended the records of the remote Arctic region back another 15 years.
The cause of the surge in ice loss in the 1980s was unclear but might have been linked to a shift in ocean currents. The underlying cause of a change in currents was unknown. NASA said last month that almost the entire surface of Greenland had been thawing in a rare warm spell that it said might happen only once every 150 years. And iceberg twice the size of Manhattan recently broke off the Petermann glacier, to the north of the area studied by Kjaer’s team
Lack of historical data is a problem for climate scientists studying Greenland and the far bigger Antarctic ice sheet, which would raise sea levels by about 60 meters if it ever all melted.