Greenland's ice sheet melt rate unprecedented, happening faster than anybody thought

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And melt and runoff in the last decade are likely to be unprecedented in the past 6,800 to 7,800 years, a study published in the journal Nature showed.

The Greenland ice sheet is the second in size after the Antarctic.

"The magnitude of recent [Greenland ice sheet] melting is exceptional over at least the last 350 years", the study said.

An increased rate of melting was detected in the ice cores beginning in the mid-1800s, which was around the same time as the onset of industrial-era Arctic warming.

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"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".

And understanding how fast the ice sheet is melting is crucial for us to prepare for the impact of rising sea levels in the future, according to Professor King. Icebergs breaking off into the ocean from the edge of glaciers are a spectacular example. At lower heights melt water directly runs off the ice sheet, but at escalated heights some percolates down porous compressed snow vociferated firn prior to refreezing to constitute layer not as same as the growth layers discovered in trees. Forecasts for how high and how soon the rise will come vary greatly, partly because scientists lack clarity on how fast warming oceans are melting polar ice sheets. To trace the history of the island in the more distant past, scientists have resorted to another method - the analysis of ice cores. In the case of the cores drilled by the researchers, the record goes back into the 17th century. In the future this process will only accelerate in line with increasing global temperatures and rising sea levels. But in contrast, at higher elevations, summer meltwater quickly refreezes from contact with the below-freezing snowpack it lies on - preventing the meltwater from running off. Instead of escaping the ice sheet, the short-lived meltwater forms icy bands that stack up layers of densely packed ice over time.

In other words, we expect to see some differences in melting between years, but during the 1970s that melting occurred on a scale beyond what could possibly be explained by a fluctuation around a stable average of ice cover.

The team analysed these results in combination with the imaging data collected by various satellites and the data from sophisticated climate models, which enabled them to determine the rate of ice melting, not only at core site, but also broadly across Greenland. He added, "I don't know how many more nails we need".

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"What our ice cores show is that Greenland is now at a state where it's much more sensitive to further increases in temperature than it was even 50 years ago", he said.

Being able to trace melting rates back 350 years is a particular strength of this latest research, according to Matt King from UTAS, who wasn't involved in this study. Rather than increasing steadily as the climate warms, Greenland will melt increasingly more for every degree of warming. This means journalists are losing the ability to hold the rich and powerful to account.

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