Climate change is an issue of global magnitude that could potentially have far ranging consequences on each and every one of us. The Greenland ice-sheet has a surface area that spans some 1.7 million square kilometers (656,000 square miles). And although a subject for much heated debate as to the causes, regardless of who is holding the smoking gun, in recent years the glacier has receded by around 15 kilometers; and it’s an ongoing meltdown that would seem unstoppable!
So how is it happening? In short, there are two processes underway. The ice-sheet is over 3,000 metres thick and remains stable because a good portion is elevated into cooler altitudes. But, with warmer ambient temperatures in the atmosphere, as the ice melts, it sinks to lower altitudes and therefore warmer temperatures. In turn, the ice-sheet melts faster.
A new study by scientists at both Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Universidad Complutense de Madrid have shown that within 2,000 years, a mere blink of the Earth’s life, the Greenland ice-sheet could have disappeared altogether. Scary news! They say that the temperature threshold for a complete melt is in the range of 0.8-3.2 degrees Celsius of global warming. The study’s best estimate suggests 1.9 degrees Celsius.
A new report out suggests that some 1,500 billion tons of ice has been lost between 2000 and 2008. What does that mean to you and I, well about a half a millimeter rise in sea levels, doesn’t sound a lot at all. But if the whole ice-sheet were to go, then it could rise as much as 7 meters. This would have a devastating impact on life on earth.
Notably some of the world’s smallest island states are facing that risk now as sea levels rise; Papua New Guinea, Tonga, The Solomon Islands, Samoa, the Maldives and many more.