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NEW IMBIE study: Greenland ice sheet is losing mass seven times faster than expected

The Greenland ice sheet is losing mass seven times faster than in the 1990s, according to new research. 

paper published today in Nature details how the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE) team, led by Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds and Erik Ivins at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory present the results of the most complete picture of Greenland ice loss to date.

The study was co-authored by reseachers working on Climate Change Initiative Antarctica and Greenland ice sheet projects and compared and combined data from 11 satellites – including ESA’s ERS-1, ERS-2, Envisat and CryoSat missions, as well as the EU’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 missions – to monitor changes in the ice sheet’s volume, flow and gravity.

Key findings

  • Greenland lost 3.8 trillion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2018 – enough to push global sea level up by 10.6 millimetres.
  • Over the study period, the rate of ice loss was found to have increased seven-fold from 33 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s to 254 billion tonnes per year in the last decade.
  • The faster-than-expected rate shows ice loss is following the IPCC’s worst-case climate warming scenario, which predicts that sea level will rise by an additional seven centimetres. This potentially puts an additional 40 million people at risk of coastal flooding. 

Read the full article

Reference: Shepherd, A., Ivins, E., Rignot, E. et al. Mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2018. Nature (2019) doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1855-2 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1855-2