A contemporary study portrays this enormous melt out wasn't only an irregularity juxtaposed with the last 40 years but the last 350. The findings also clearly demonstrate the impact of climate change on Arctic melting and global sea level rise, according to the research team.
'The melting and sea-level rise we've observed will be dwarfed by what may be expected in the future'.
"What we found with our ice cores is that it's melting today more than at any time within at least the last three and a half centuries", he said, "and probably, melting more today than any time in the last seven to eight thousand years". The researchers found that the rate translated to a 50-percent increase in the runoff of meltwater into the sea compared with the preindustrial era.
Melting from Greenland's ice sheet is the largest single driver of global sea level rise, which scientists predict could swamp coastal cities and settlements in the coming decades. The team focused on these high elevations so they would be able to study records of the melting's intensity of the melting dating all the way back to the 17th century.
The report comes after naturalist Sir David Attenborough warned the collapse of civilisations and extinction of much of the natural world "is on the horizon" without urgent action to tackle climate change.
"Rather than increasing steadily as climate warms, Greenland will melt increasingly more and more for every degree of warming". Instead, it forms distinct icy bands that stack up in layers of densely packed ice over time.
Researchers from the MIT-WHO Joint Program, University of Washington, Wheaton College, University of Leige, Desert Research Institute, and Utrecht University also worked on the study. Thicker melt layers represented years of higher melting, while thinner sections indicated years with less melting. Mwltwater from the ice sheet runs off into the ocean, contributing to sea level rise.
The long-term record the researchers built from these layered ice cores allowed them to spot a slight trend of increased melting across Greenland coinciding with the beginning of modern-day warming in the mid-1800s.
Study co-author Matt Osman, a graduate student, said: "We have had a sense that there's been a great deal of melting in recent decades, but we previously had no basis for comparison with melt rates going further back in time". Headed by climate scientist and glaciologist Luke Trusel of Rowan University, a team of U.S. and European scientists carried out the first continuous, multi-century analysis of the Greenland ice sheet meltdown.
"We need to be aiming for net-zero emissions before 2050".
Because of a "nonlinear response of surface melting to increasing summer air temperatures, continued atmospheric warming will lead to rapid increases in [Greenland ice sheet] runoff and sea-level contributions", the study said.
This research was funded by the US National Science Foundation, institutional support from Rowan University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the US Department of Defense, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the Netherlands Earth System Science Center, and the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research.