CryoSat Reveals Dramatic Ice Loss From Greenland

Rivers streaking across the surface of Greenland's vast ice sheet. NASA

The rate of ice loss from Greenland has varied from year to year, with the highest losses to date occurring in 2012 when summer temperatures hit unnerving peaks. However, 2015 may soon prove to be its worst ever year. A recent study has highlighted that a process known as Arctic Amplification was operating in full effect over Greenland last year, which describes an atmospheric warming accelerant unique to the northern realms of our planet.

When ice of any sort melts away in the Arctic, less incoming solar radiation is able to be reflected back into space, and more of it is absorbed by the nearby water. Water takes a long time to heat up, but when it does, it stores this heat for a considerably long time. Warmer waters means that more ice melts, which leads to even less reflected radiation, and so on. This cycle reinforces itself, and warming in the region continually speeds up.

In short, this means that the Arctic is warming faster than almost anywhere else on the planet, and we can see these effects in all their high-resolution glory thanks to CryoSat.

2016 isn’t looking much better for the area. The National Snow and Ice Data Center, a separate arbiter of the Arctic region, notes that March is the only month so far this year that has not set the record low for sea ice extent, although it was the second-lowest since records began.

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Meltwater pools of warm, radiation-absorbing water on Greenland's ice sheet. NASA

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