Scientists model out two tipping points for Greenland ice sheet

A new study by German researchers suggests that the fate of the Greenland ice sheet within 10,000 years depends on how much carbon dioxide will be emitted in the next few decades. 

It concludes that if the cumulative carbon emissions since the industrial age reach 1,000 gigatonnes, which roughly doubles the current level, a large portion of the Greenland ice sheet could melt. The study has been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The Greenland ice sheet is the world's second largest after the Antarctic ice sheet, and understanding how Greenland's ice sheet is melting is critical to predicting the rise in sea levels, but in recent years its stability has faced serious threats from climate change.

Researchers from institutions such as the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany have found that there is not a simple linear relationship between the increase in temperature and the melting of ice sheets. They simulated and analyzed the long-term impact of different carbon emission scenarios on the Greenland ice sheet and found that there are two critical points. 

The analysis shows that if the cumulative carbon emissions do not exceed 1,000 gigatonnes, the first tipping point, the Greenland ice sheet will turn to slow growth after the first 1,000 years of melting. After reaching 1,000 gigatonnes, the southern part of the ice sheet may entirely disappear, causing the sea level to rise by about 1.8 meters. When carbon emissions reach the second tipping point, which is 2,500 gigatonnes, the Greenland ice sheet may disappear within 10,000 years, causing the sea level to rise by about 6.9 meters.

According to data released by the non-governmental organization "Global Carbon Project," the annual global carbon emissions were about 10.9 gigatonnes in 2021, and the cumulative emissions from 1850 to 2021 were about 465 gigatonnes. At the current rate, the tipping point of 1,000 gigatonnes will be reached in less than 50 years.

(Cover image via VCG)

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