Melting ice sheets and glaciers will lead to rising sea levels
Climate change is causing a rapid loss of ice at a rate that was unthinkable ten years ago, a new scientific report has warned.
The State of the Cryosphere study says that a complete loss of Arctic ice in the summer is now inevitable – even if we manage to limit temperature rises to 1.6°C.
The report, which was reviewed and supported by more than 60 top cryosphere scientists, says that the melting Artic is just one sign of cryosphere collapse.
This year saw the first ever spike in Greenland surface melt in September, rains and temperatures above 40°C in East Antarctica in March, and a loss of 5% of Alpine glacier ice in just one summer. Rising temperatures also caused the first documented release of methane at a permafrost monitoring site.
The large ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic will continue to melt over hundreds of years, leading to three metres of sea level rise. The loss of summer ice in the Arctic could occur within a decade.
“There’s nothing we can do about that now. We’ve just screwed up and let the system warm too much already,” Julie Brigham-Grette, a scientist at University of Massachusetts Amherst and the report’s co-author, said.
“That milestone has now passed, so the next thing we need to avoid is ice shelf collapses in Antarctica and the further breakdown of the ice systems in Greenland. We can’t stuff the genie back into the bottle once they are gone.”
Currently, the Arctic sea ice reflects heat, but as it melts, more ocean is created. This water absorbs the heat instead and causes an increase in global warming. The methane released by melting permafrost will also contribute to climate change.
Higher sea temperatures affect the ecosystem and the rising sea levels will pose huge problems for coastal cities around the world.
“It’s a terminal diagnosis and we have to live with the consequences,” Robbie Mallett, a sea ice expert at University College London Earth Sciences, said. “It’s been quite emotional to think of a time by the end of my career when I will see an Arctic free of sea ice. It’s been a shocking few years in Greenland with ice disappearing before our eyes. We are driving a whole environment to extinction.”
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“That milestone [loss of Arctic summer ice] has now passed, so the next thing we need to avoid is ice shelf collapses in Antarctica and the further breakdown of the ice systems in Greenland. We can’t stuff the genie back into the bottle once they are gone,” Julie Brigham-Grette, a scientist at University of Massachusetts Amherst