Is global warming near a tipping point in Greenland?
THIS STUFF raises the specter of higher sea levels and flooded coastal areas:
Recent findings suggest climate change in Greenland may be approaching a tipping point, beyond which amplifying feedbacks could lead (probably over centuries) to complete melting of the ice sheet, raising sea level by about 7 meters.
In June, a team of glaciologists led by Jason Box predicted that we would see melting across 100% of the ice sheet’s surface area in summer within a decade. They drew that conclusion from data on the Greenland ice sheet’s surface reflectivity, or “albedo”, showing the surface has gotten darker over the last 12 years. A darker surface absorbs more heat, leading to more melting, causing albedo to decrease further, and so on in a vicious circle.
The ice naturally gets less reflective in summer because the shape of the snowflakes changes and meltwater reveals impurities beneath the surface, but in 2012 Greenland has become much darker than in previous summers. This is occurring particularly at high elevations, which were previously too cold to melt and indeed had gained ice from increasing snowfall. This month, at the height of the melt season, Greenland’s albedo has fallen far off the charts.