Greenland is the largest island on Earth and it sits atop the largest chunk of ice in the Northern part of the world. If that chunk of ice melts completely, the global sea level would go up by about 7 metres. Though it may not occur any time soon, it is crucial to know how much of Greenland’s icy glaciers melts in the near future. Scientists are already making use of complex modelling systems to keep a check on how it might affect the global climate.
The ‘Massive Three’ Glaciers In Greenland
The issue that arises with these models is that they don’t exactly reproduce recent changes and are bound by our limited data of the physical characteristics of the sub-glacial land and fjords over which and into the ice flow takes place. This issue can be tackled by analyzing the way in which the ice chunk was affected by variations in climate in the past and comparing it with future models by taking into account identical temperature variations.
The researchers analyzed Greenland three most massive glaciers by making use of old aerial pics in combination with observations made by scientists over the years. Then they reconstructed models to understand how these glaciers had changed from the years 1880 to 2012. Their research is based on the concept that the past can be helpful to save the future in all facets of life. But we must understand that the Earth isn’t exactly going to be the same in the future as it was in the past.
Getting to know how exactly warming environment affected the ice chunk in the past, it can help us understand how it will be affected in the upcoming years. The researchers discovered that these 3 glaciers would elevate the sea level by 8.1 mm, it is nearly 15% of the rise contributed by the entire chunk of ice. The global sea level rose by 20 cm as the research was being conducted over the years and it was all because of the ice melting from these 3 glaciers.
Melting As Usual
Another study in 2013 conducted by Faezeh Nick and colleagues used models to analyse the same 3 glaciers. They predicted how these glaciers would react to a number of climate variation scenarios in the future. The worst of these scenarios, referred to as RCP8.5, considers that economic progress would bloom will the end of of the century and it would warm the world by a mean value of 3.7˚C above current temperatures. RCP8.5 is also sometimes called as Business As Usual (BAU). There is an active conflict among climate experts about the plausibility of RCP8.5 and it is intriguing to know that as per a recent US study, it is the most plausible scenario to occur till 2050.
The Arctic will be heating up by twice the global average due to polar amplification. Climate models suggest that Greenland will see a temperature rise of 8.3˚C according to RCP8.5. Despite this, Faezeh’s model suggested that the three massive glaciers would elevate the global sea level by 9 and 15 mm by the end of 21st century. It is only a slight increase than what is expected currently. This indicated that they had faulty models as they show a poor connection between climate change and ice melt, which actually is a lot stronger.
If we continue to live as we do now, RCP8.5 will be a reality and the massive chunk of ice on which Greenland sit, will melt at a rate that wasn’t reported in the past 130,000 years. It will have disastrous effects on sea level and the populations living in low lying coastal areas.