A new study has revealed that increasing global temperature would change the face of Greenland over the next century and this would impact sea level rise.
Using a regional climate model, Dr. Marco Tedesco, associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at The City College of New York, and a colleague have predicted the island's future.
"We put Greenland under a microscope to see what accounts for melting and for ice mass changes in different regions," said Professor Tedesco.
He and his colleague, Xavier Fettweis of the University of Liege, Belgium, compared two possible future CO2 scenarios: a concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere projected for the end of the century of 850 parts per million (ppm) versus a more aggressive projection of 1370 ppm. The first approximates the current rate of increase.
The Greenland ice sheet would lose more ice and snow to melting than it would accumulate in both scenarios. Basins on the southwest and north coasts would suffer the greatest losses. Temperatures would only have to increase by 0.6 to 2.16 degrees Celsius to tip the balance into more loss than gain.
The new model shows how a melting would alter the topography of "one of the world's refrigerators," potentially affecting adjacent ocean circulation and salinity, and speeding further melting.
Though dramatic, Professor Tedesco said the predictions he reported might be too conservative.
"They don't take into account progressive effects of the changing elevations and topography and the acceleration of ice sheet movement," he said.
These results, however, represent a step forward toward understanding the potential repercussions of warming temperatures; an improvement on models that give a much coarser view into the future, he added.
The researchers reported their results online in "Environmental Research Letters."