Planet in peril

Robert Hunziker
Thursday, Nov 24, 2022

A new study finds Greenland’s ice sheet thinning much further into the ice sheet core than previously thought, 100 miles inland.

The implications are extremely concerning and far-reaching especially for sea level rise. It is a significant development that will prompt climate scientists to recalculate global warming’s impact.

In that regard, some facts are worth repeating. Here’s one that cannot be told often enough because of the gravity of its implications for the 130 coastal cities of the world each with over one million residents: During the 1990s Greenland and Antarctica combined lost 81 billion tons of ice mass per year on average. A decade later, during the decade of the 2010s, the ice mass loss increased 6-fold to 475 billion tons per year on average.

It should be noted that it takes billions upon billions of tons of melted ice to move sea levels appreciably up, which does give some pause to any immediacy of cities overrun by gushing water. Yet, what if 475 billion tons per year becomes much more than that?

Additionally, rehashing one more relevant stat, according to John Englander, the sea level expert par excellence: “If we only melt 5 per cent of global glacial ice, it’s 10 feet of sea level rise.” But, how long does it take to melt 5 per cent? Nobody knows for sure, but it’s most likely well beyond 2100. What about only 2 per cent? Again, nobody knows.

By now readers of articles like ‘Greenland is Worse Than Ever, Much Worse’ must be getting accustomed to negative reports of climate change getting worse over time. In fact, relentlessly year-by-year it gets worse, never better. It’s like a terminally ill cancer patient knowing what to expect: Every checkup gets worse. Greenland just got an eye-opener!

There’s a good reason for why climate change continually gets worse. It’s failure by the leaders of the world to react to years and years and years of climate scientists’ warnings, starting in the 1980s with Dr James Hansen formerly Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies: ‘Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate’ splashed onto the front page of The New York Times d/d June 24, 1988.

The needle to fix the climate change imbroglio has not budged since well before Dr Hansen’s speech to the US Senate. Fossil fuels still account for 80-90 per cent of energy use, same as 50 years ago! Moreover, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) fossil fuel companies plan on $1.5T spending for new production. That’s a lot of future CO2. And, in certain quarters, coal is picking up steam again. These are the direct sources of CO2 spewing into the atmosphere, prompting a big question for the 21st century: What’s gonna stop the onset of runaway global warming?

As it happens, new studies bring new insight to prior studies. For example, previous studies of the Greenland ice sheet studied the edges of Greenland to look at active melting. Whereas, this new Khan study is drawn further inland, more than 100 miles inland, discovering thinning ice never before seen.

“What they found was alarming: thinning from Greenland’s coast stretched back 200 to 300 kilometers (125 to 185 miles)… what we see happening at the front reaches far back into the heart of the ice sheet, said Shfaqat Abbas Khan in a press release about the study, published in Nature…. the new model really captures what’s going on inland, the old ones do not… you end up with a completely different mass change, or sea level projection.”

The principal area studied, known as the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS) covers approximately 12 per cent of the ice sheet. The thinning is estimated to add 13.5 to 15.5 mm to sea levels over time, which is equivalent to the contribution of the past 50 years. More to the point, according to the scientists: “The NEGIS could lose six times more ice than existing climate models estimate.” Thus, it’s getting worse, much worse, six-times worse than previous studies. 6xs is really a lot, off the charts.

Warm ocean currents that absorb over 90 per cent of planet heat cause the inland disturbances. In 2012 the floating extension of NEGIS collapsed, an event that accelerated ice flow and triggered rapid ice thinning, spreading upstream by over 100 miles: One has to wonder if the integrity of the entire ice sheet is more compromised than ever before?

An article in commented on the new finding: “Greenland’s largest ice sheet is thawing at a much higher rate than expected, a new study has revealed, suggesting it will add six times more water to the rising sea levels than previously thought. And the trend may not be limited to Greenland, scientists worry.”

Repeating that prior statement “And the trend may not be limited to Greenland, scientists worry.”

Probably points a finger at Antarctica, where recent research has identified similar warm underwater currents eroding the base of ice sheets, for example, Thwaites glacier West Antarctica, the widest glacier on the planet: Under the ice the geological structure of Thwaites is “a recipe for disaster.”

Excerpted: ‘Greenland is Worse Than Ever, Much Worse’.