Feeds

Greenland melt threshold lower than thought

Ice could disappear with half as much warming: study

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Spanish and German scientists have have alarmed the international environmental community with modeling suggesting that Greenland’s ice sheets could disappear at lower temperatures than previously thought.

The study was conducted by Spain’s Universidad Complutense de Madrid and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. They found that rather than a best-estimate temperature rise (compared to pre-industrial levels) of 3.1°C, Greenland’s ice would eventually succumb to a rise of as little as 1.6°C.

The good news is that complete loss of the ice sheet is, even under the Spanish-German model, about 2,000 years distant. However, they say, this is considerably faster than has happened before on Earth, and is more than an order of magnitude quicker than would happen if warming were contained.

If temperatures are contained to within 2°C of pre-industrial levels, the ice sheet would last another 50,000 years, the authors say.

According to Reuters, the research, published in the journal Nature Science Change, suggests scientists have been too optimistic in estimating the temperature needed to trigger substantial ice loss in Greenland.

“Our study shows that a temperature threshold for melting the (ice sheet) exists and that this threshold has been overestimated until now,” the paper states (abstract here).

The temperature in question is that at which the mass balance of Greenland’s surface ice “turns negative” – in other words, its summer melt is faster than its winter replenishment.

Using a “fully coupled model” the researchers suggest that while “one intermediate equilibrium state is possible … for sufficiently high initial temperature anomalies, total loss of the ice sheet becomes irreversible”.

In other words, while commendably avoiding the emotive term “tipping point”, the researchers do suggest that such a state exists. It’s feasible, in their study, that a point exists where even a reduction in temperatures wouldn’t reverse the loss of the ice sheet.

Both the previous estimates and the new estimate have considerable error bars: the former model for Greenland ice loss fell between 1.9 and 5.1°C, while the new model puts the maximum range between 0.8 and 3.2°C.

“The timescale of melt depends strongly on the magnitude and duration above this critical threshold,” the abstract says. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
Major cyber attack hits Norwegian oil industry
Statoil, the gas giant behind the Scandie social miracle, targeted
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?