Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Greenland Lost 600 Billion Tons of Ice Last Summer, Raising Sea Levels, NASA Study Finds

Science
Umiamako Glacier enters the ocean in the west of Greenland. E.RIGNOT / NASA

Greenland experienced an unusually warm summer in 2019, which caused the world's largest island to lose 600 billion tons of ice and raised sea levels by 0.2 of an inch, according to a NASA study released yesterday. That amount of ice loss more than doubled Greenland's 2002-2019 annual average.


The data comes from the joint U.S.-German space mission known as Grace-FO, a pair of satellites that circle the globe and sense the variations in mass that correspond to Earth's gravity field, according to the BBC. The satellites are particularly adept at sensing tiny changes in the Earth's gravitational field caused by ice gain or loss. They have proven themselves useful in detecting groundwater storage around the globe, according to the Washington Post.

The study also looked at Antarctica, noting that it continues to lose its ice mass, particularly in the Amundsen Sea Embayment and the Antarctic Peninsula on the western part of the continent, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"We knew this past summer had been particularly warm in Greenland, melting every corner of the ice sheet," lead author Isabella Velicogna, senior project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a professor at University of California, Irvine, said in a statement. "But the numbers really are enormous."

The study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. It tracked ice loss in Greenland dating back to 2002, using information from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) satellites, which went out of commission in 2017, and the new Grace-FO satellites, which launched in 2018. The FO stands for Follow On, as The Washington Post reported.

The satellites revealed that from 2002 to 2019, Greenland lost 4,550 billion tons of ice, for an average of 261 billion tons every year, according to The Washington Post. 2012 and 2019 were the two largest melt years in that time frame, the BBC reported.

Velicogna told The Washington Post what made 2019 so different in Greenland was that there was a lot of melting from the glaciers in the north and northeastern glaciers, which is unusual.

"And, so, basically, we have melting all around the ice sheet," she said.

In the coastal town of Ilulissat, not far from where the mighty Jakobshavn Glacier enters the ocean, temperatures reached into the high 20s Celsius this summer. The warm temperatures even reached the ice sheet's interior, which approached above freezing levels, the BBC reported.

"It's significant that we're now seeing melt and mass loss extending to Greenland's northern glaciers. All of Greenland contributed to the big summer melt of last year," Velicogna said, according to the BBC.

Robin Bell, an expert on ice sheet dynamics at Columbia University, to The Washington Post that the satellite data will help researchers improve the accuracy of their future sea-level rise estimates.

"This is a beautiful update of how we can really see how the ice sheets are changing…from the annual inhale and exhale as snow accumulates in the winter in Greenland and melts in the summer," she said.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a White House Clean Energy Investment Summit on June 16, 2015 in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

With presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's climate platform becoming increasingly ambitious thanks to nonstop grassroots pressure, fossil fuel executives and lobbyists are pouring money into the coffers of President Donald Trump's reelection campaign in the hopes of keeping an outspoken and dedicated ally of dirty energy in the White House.

Read More Show Less
The Food and Drug Administration is now warning against more than 100 potentially dangerous hand sanitizers.
Antonio_Diaz / Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now warning against more than 100 potentially dangerous hand sanitizers.

Read More Show Less
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference on July 1, 2020 in New York City. Byron Smith / Getty Images

While the nation overall struggles with rising COVID cases, New York State is seeing the opposite. After peaking in March and April and implementing strict shutdowns of businesses, the state has seen its number of positive cases steadily decline as it slowly reopens. From coast-to-coast, Governor Andrew Cuomo's response to the crisis has been hailed as an exemplar of how to handle a public health crisis.

Read More Show Less
A whale shark swims in the Egyptian Red Sea. Derek Keats / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Gavin Naylor

Sharks elicit outsized fear, even though the risk of a shark bite is infinitesimally small. As a marine biologist and director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, I oversee the International Shark Attack File – a global record of reported shark bites that has been maintained continuously since 1958.

Read More Show Less
A girl sits under a temporary shade made by joining two bed in Churu, Rajasthan on June 4, 2019. Temperatures in the Indian desert city hit 50 degrees C (122 F) for the second time in three days, sending residents scrambling for shade. MONEY SHARMA / AFP via Getty Images

Current efforts to curb an infectious disease show the potential we have for collective action. That action and more will be needed if we want to stem the coming wave of heat-related deaths that will surpass the number of people who die from all infectious diseases, according to a new study, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
America Pikas are found from the Sierra Nevada to the Rocky Mountains, and have been migrating to higher elevations. Jon LeVasseur / Flickr / Public Domain

By Jenny Morber

Caribbean corals sprout off Texas. Pacific salmon tour the Canadian Arctic. Peruvian lowland birds nest at higher elevations.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Biologists are studying the impact of climate change on the Nenets and their reindeer herds. Deutsche Welle

Biologist Egor Kirillin is on a special mission. Deep in the Siberian wilderness in the Russian Republic of Sakha, he waits on the Olenjok river until reindeer come thundering into the water.

Read More Show Less