It seems that every day brings more news of doom and gloom when it comes to the various ice shelves and ice sheets that can be found around our planet. Now, a new study published in Nature showcases that the Greenland ice sheet may have lost up to 20 percent more ice over the last four years than scientists previously believed.
For those who haven’t been paying attention to the ongoing climate change crisis threatening our planet, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet is the biggest contributor to rising global sea levels. As such, understanding the rate at which it is melting is extremely important to understanding the exact spread of global warming’s reach.
As such, new studies are constantly coming out about the current state of the Greenland ice sheet, and based on these newest findings, the sheet has lost far more ice than we previously thought it had. The study focused mostly on glacier calving retreat, which is the ice that is lost at the edges of the glacier where it meets the sea.
Based on the new findings, the Greenland ice sheet has lost roughly 5,091 square kilometers (1,965 square miles) of ice since 1985 due to its calving front continuing to retreat. This amounts to roughly 1,034 gigatons of ice sliding into the sea.
To find this information, the researchers utilized both manual and AI-generated observations of the ice sheet to help provide new insights into how fast it is retreating due to calving. Now, the upside here, at least as far as sea levels go, is that this ice is already sitting in the sea, so when it melts, it isn’t going to contribute to rising sea levels.
However, the state of the Greenland ice sheet and how fast it is calving raise some additional concerns about when we will reach a point of no return. A study in October of 2023 argued that we have a very small opportunity to save Greenland’s ice sheet, and if all the ice in the world were to melt, it would have catastrophic results for our planet.
Whether or not this calving can be slowed is another matter altogether. Still, it’s good to have a deeper understanding of the rate at which the Greenland ice sheet is losing ice, as it can help us determine how far along the collapse of this ice sheet and others like it might be.