In the next 200 years, the melting of the Greenland ice at the current rate could contribute from 48 (almost half a meter) to 160 centimeters to the rise in sea level worldwide, according to a new study that uses models that used data from the airborne campaign Operation IceBridge of NASA.
That is to say, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to heat the atmosphere at the current rate, the melting ice sheet of Greenland can cause the sea to rise by 80 percent more than forecast. The study has been published in Science Advances by a team led by scientists from the Institute of Geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
To predict what would happen, the study recreated three possible models. The first, the worst, stated that there was no emission reduction. In such a case, the entire Greenland ice sheet will likely melt in a millennium, causing an increase of 5.18 to 7.01 meters from sea level. But ice loss could be limited to 8-25 percent if emissions are drastically reduced.
By incorporating IceBridge ice thickness data and identifying sources of statistical uncertainty within the model, the study creates a more accurate picture, so it can be argued that melting outlet glaciers could represent up to 40 percent of the ice mass loss of Greenland in the next 200 years.
At its thickest point, the Greenland ice sheet is currently more than 3,300 meters above sea level. As Andy Aschwanden, associate professor of research at the Fairbanks Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, explains:
Once we had access to the satellite observations, we were able to capture the velocity of the surface of the entire Greenland ice sheet and see how that ice flows. We recognized that some outlet glaciers flow very fast, orders of magnitude faster than the inside of the ice sheet.