Greenland Ice Sheet Melting “Passed the Point of No Return”

August 18th, 2020 by  

Greenland satellite view, via Google Maps.

Who remembers learning in grade school about Greenland and Iceland and that nifty switcheroo that Vikings used to keep other Vikings from realizing that Greenland wasn’t so green? Well, it turns out that story isn’t true, but the real history of Greenland is perhaps just as interesting:

“Greenland was named by Eiríkur rauði or Erik the red* about 120 years after Iceland got its name. Erik was sentenced to exile for 3 years by Icelanders and spent those years exploring Greenland. When he returned to Iceland, he told people great stories of a wonderful land in the west. Erik wanted to establish a settlement in Greenland and he knew that he would need the support of as many people as possible to make the settlement a success. So he deliberately gave the land a appealing name in order to lure potential settlers. ‘People would be attracted to go there if it had a favorable name’. His salesmanship worked, many people joined him to form two colonies in Greenland and he became the ‘lord’ of Greenland…”

Well, as of 2020, Greenland’s ice sheet is melting fast, and it appears that’s not going to change. This is something that we all should be mourning. This gradual goodbye says hello to a hotter planet.

CNN reported that Greenland’s ice sheet has melted to “a point of no return.” This information comes from a new study by researchers at Ohio State University. The study, titled, “Dynamic ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet driven by sustained glacier retreat,” noted that the ice sheet’s major loss of mass happened at accelerated rates in the 21st century. This will also be the largest single contributor to rising sea levels.

“The ice sheet is now in this new dynamic state, where even if we went back to a climate that was more like what we had 20 or 30 years ago, we would still be pretty quickly losing mass,” said Ian Howat, a co-author of the study and a professor at Ohio State University.

This study combined well over 30 years of “remotely sensed observational products of outlet glacier velocity, elevation, and front position changes over the full ice sheet.” The ice sheet usually dumps over 280 billion metric tons of melting ice into the ocean every year. Lead author of the study Michalea King said that this made it the greatest single contributor to global sea-level rise. This loss has been so massive that it’s caused a measurable change in the gravitational field over Greenland, she explained.

Greenland’s ice melt also adds more than a millimeter rise to sea level annually, and with this news of unstoppable melting, it’s only going to get worse. Sea levels, which are projected to rise by more than three feet by the end of this century, will wipe away beaches and coastal properties. States like my own, Louisiana, as well as Florida have been dealing with the consequences of rising sea levels for years, but it’s going to get harder.

CNN noted that 40% of the U.S. population resides in coastal areas and are vulnerable to the rising sea levels. In Mississippi, the costs of coastal flooding are high — the persistent inundation of water is making those living along the coast move to higher ground. In fact, there were almost $16 billion in coastal property value losses between 2005 and 2017 from flooding in coastal areas.

It’s not just the United States, but every continent on the planet is having to face this crisis. In Fiji (it’s not just a water brand), coastal communities have already had to move inland, as their islands have already been swallowed by the sea. One resident, Barney Dunn, was forced to witness his ancestral homeland disappear beneath the rising sea. “You see your ancestors swimming in the sea. If you live there, you will know how it feels,” he told 1 NEWS Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver, who visited Togoru.

“There’s a lot of places, like in Florida especially, where one meter alone would cover a lot of existing land areas,” King told CNN. “And that’s exacerbated when you get storms and hurricanes and things like that, that then cause extra surge on top of a higher baseline.”

The study, which used 40 years of satellite data to measure the changes in Greenland’s ice sheet, found out that it is retreating in rapid bursts. This leads to sudden and unpredictable rises in sea level, which makes it challenging to prepare for the effects. The authors also discovered that after 2000, the ice sheet began to shrink so fast that the replenishing snowfall couldn’t keep up. The point of no return has passed for Greenland’s ice sheet.

However, it’s just a prelude of what’s to come. If humans refuse to change their ways on this planet, the rate of melting will get much worse. Ian Howat, one of the authors of the study, said that entire coasts of ice are retreating all at once thanks to climate change. He noted that all 200 glaciers that make up the Greenland ice sheet were observed retreating at the same time.

“We’ve passed the point of no return, but there’s obviously more to come,”  he said, “Rather than being a single tipping point in which we’ve gone from a happy ice sheet to a rapidly collapsing ice sheet, it’s more of a staircase where we’ve fallen off the first step but there’s many more steps to go down into the pit.”

Ending on a lighter note, here’s the footnote from the article the quoted text near the top came from:

* BTW Erik’s son, Leifur Eiríksson was also an explorer like this father. Leifur sailed from Greenland and found & named three Lands:

So Leifur is often credited to have found the Americas about 500 years before Christopher Columbus did…



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About the Author

is a Baton Rouge artist, gem, and mineral collector, member of the International Gem Society, and a Tesla shareholder who believes in Elon Musk and Tesla. Elon Musk advised her in 2018 to “Believe in Good.”

Tesla is one of many good things to believe in. You can find Johnna on Twitter

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