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Ice sheet melt sets new record

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 22 January 2011

New research shows that 2010 set new records for the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, expected to be a major contributor to projected sea level rises in coming decades.

The shocking rate of Greenland’s ice melt is a wakeup call

“This past melt season was exceptional, with melting in some areas stretching up to 50 days longer than average,” said Dr. Marco Tedesco, Director of the Cryospheric Processes Laboratory at the City College of New York (CCNY – CUNY), who is leading a project studying variables that affect ice sheet melting.

“Melting in 2010 started exceptionally early at the end of April and ended quite late in mid- September.”

The study, with different aspects sponsored by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA, examined surface temperature anomalies over the Greenland ice sheet surface, as well as estimates of surface melting from satellite data, ground observations and models.

In an article published today in Environmental Research Letters, Dr. Tedesco and co-authors note that in 2010, summer temperatures up to 3°C (5.4°F) above the average were combined with reduced snowfall.

The capital of Greenland, Nuuk, had the warmest spring and summer since records began in 1873.

Bare ice was exposed earlier than the average and longer than previous years, contributing to the extreme record.

“Bare ice is much darker than snow and absorbs more solar radiation,” said Dr. Tedesco. “Other ice melting feedback loops that we are examining include the impact of lakes on the glacial surface, of dust and soot deposited over the ice sheet and how surface meltwater affects the flow of the ice toward the ocean.”

WWF climate specialist Dr. Martin Sommerkorn said “Sea level rise is expected to top 3 feet (36 inches) by 2100, largely due to melting from ice sheets.  And it will not stop there – the longer we take to limit greenhouse gas production, the more melting and water level rise will continue.”

A report published by WWF and Allianz in 2009, Major Tipping Points in the Earth’s Climate System and Consequences for the Insurance Sector, found that global sea level rise of just 20 inches, with an additional 6 inches localized rise along the northeast U.S. coast, could jeopardize assets worth close to $7.4 trillion.

“The shocking rate of Greenland’s ice melt is a wakeup call,” said Lou Leonard, WWF Managing Director of Climate Change. “Study after study is reaching the same conclusions: climate change is accelerating, the livelihoods of people and the habitats of species are becoming more stressed and the costs of doing nothing are piling up. Time is growing short, but we still have a chance to avoid the worst impacts and economic damages if we begin to phase out fossil fuels and transition to a clean energy economy today.”

Source: WWF

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