Science 3 min read

Greenland's Ice Sheet to Disappear in the Next 1000 Years

Anders Peter Photography /

Anders Peter Photography /

Behind Antarctica, Greenland has the second largest ice sheet on the planet.

In the last few decades, glaciers across Greenland have been shrinking apace. While researchers have reported that Greenland’s biggest glacier is gaining ice, the melting overall continues in the context of a climate that seems to be irrevocably warming.

A previous study has revealed that the Greenland ice sheet is melting six times faster than during the 1980s. From 1980 to 1990, the island’s ice sheet lost 51 billion tons of ice to the ocean, which is a fraction of the whopping 286 billion tons of ice melted during the 2010-2018 period.

Since 1972, the Greenland ice sheet alone has contributed by a 0.5-inch sea level rise.

But how bad would it be for Greenland’s ice in the long run?

The Greenland Ice Sheet Meltdown

The human-made climate change, and its most apparent facet global warming, is wreaking havoc on the global climate system through our endless carbon and other GHG emissions.

And one of the first victims to fall for rising temperatures is ice, which plays a critical role in the health of the planet’s climate. Yet, we’re making it melt at an increasing pace.

In about 1000 years from now, Greenland would look very different than now as it could have lost all its ice, and could cause a greater sea water rise threat than previously thought, says a new NASA study.

The research team, led by scientists at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, used data from NASA’s Operation IceBridge airborne campaign to conduct a new modeling study, published in Science Advances.

They found that, if Greenland’s ice sheet keeps melting at current rates, the global sea level will rise by 19 to 63 inches over the next 200 years. This is at least 80% higher than previous studies that estimate the rise to be around 35 inches.

Using supercomputers at NASA’s Ames Research Center and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the researchers run their ice sheet model “500 times out to the year 3000” to test three possible future climate scenarios.

In the scenario where we keep emitting greenhouse gases at the present rate, the model predicts the entire Greenland ice sheet to disappear in 1000 years, leading to 17-23 feet of sea level rise.

However, if emissions stabilized by the end of the century, the island’s ice sheet could lose 26-57% of its total mass by 3000, while a drastic reduction of emissions could limit ice melting to only 8-25% with up to six feet of sea level rise.

NASA writes in a press release:

“At its thickest point, the Greenland Ice Sheet currently stands more than 10,000 feet above sea level. It rises high enough into the atmosphere to alter the weather around it, as mountains do. Today, this weather pattern generates almost enough snowfall to compensate for the amount of naturally melting ice each year. In the future, however, melting and flow will thin the interior, lowering it into a layer of the atmosphere that lacks the conditions necessary for sufficient replenishing snowfall.”

Read More: Scientists Propose To Refreeze The Arctic To Reverse Climate Change

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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