Simulations show a long delay in the effect of global warming on Greenland’s inland ice

Simulations show a long delay in the effect of global warming on Greenland's inland ice

The left sub-panel shows the ice thickness used to initialize the model (shading) and the modern coastline (black contour line), while the right sub-panel shows the corresponding bedrock topography. This data is derived from the ETOPO1 dataset. Credit: DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0259816

A team of researchers working at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research has found through models that Greenland’s inland ice can continue to lose ice over the next century due to a long delay, regardless of whether global warming is brought under control or not. They have posted a paper describing their findings in the open-access journal PLOS ET.

Previous research has shown that the amount of Greenland’s inland ice decreases almost every year as the planet gets warmer. In this new effort, the researchers suspected that reductions in the volume of the ice sheet are likely to continue for many years, regardless of what climate change is happening now, because the ice sheet is taking a long time to react. They note that previous research has shown that the inner ice in the sheet does not melt as soon as the air temperature rises because it is protected by outer ice. But as the outer ice melts away, the inner ice begins to feel the effect of the heated temperatures and begins to melt. Scientists have found that this cycle of melting and freezing has been going on for thousands of years – but the time lag has always been there.

To make estimates of how the ice sheet can cope with the warming conditions today, the researchers created several models that described different aspects of the ice sheet as it responded to several changes in atmospheric temperatures dating back about 125,000 years. The data included both the increased atmospheric temperatures and the slow melting that occurred during and after. The researchers then added data to the models to describe the current atmospheric temperatures and those expected for the year 2100. These data included increases in atmospheric temperatures dating back to the late 1800s and the amount of ice that has already melted. The researchers then used data from the models to create a simulation of expected events.

The development of the Greenland ice sheet. Credit: Yang et al., 2022, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0 (

The simulations showed that changes in atmospheric temperatures over the past century are likely to have a major impact on the volume of the ice sheet for many years to come – from hundreds to thousands of years – regardless of whether global warming is brought under control. They further note that such a meltdown will have a significant impact on global sea levels. They conclude by warning that if greenhouse gas emissions are not brought under control, CO2 levels by the end of this century could reach those not seen for about three million years, a time when there was no ice cap covering Greenland.

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More information:
Hu Yang et al., The impact of the paleoclimate on the current and future development of the Greenland Ice Sheet, PLOS ET (2022). DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0259816

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Citation: Simulations show long delay in the effect of global warming on Greenland’s inland ice volume (2022, 31 January) retrieved 31 January 2022 from greenland .html

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