Greenland ice sheet set to lose trillions of tons of ice, raising sea levels drastically
Coastal cities around the world will now need to prepare for climate catastrophe.
The claim: Greenland ice sheet is recovering and earlier melting was caused by ‘natural warming’
The Greenland ice sheet has experienced significant melting in the last 20 years due to the ongoing warming of Earth’s surfaces and oceans, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The melting ice has in turn contributed to sea level rise.
However, some social media users are sharing an article that claims the Greenland ice sheet is recovering and that previous melting was caused by “natural warming.”
The article, which was published on the website The Daily Sceptic, was shared nearly 2,200 times in less than two weeks, according to the social media insights tool CrowdTangle.
But it’s wrong about the status of the Greenland ice sheet. The ice sheet continues to lose ice. This process is driven by warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions, according to researchers.
USA TODAY reached out to the Daily Sceptic for comment.
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Greenland ice sheet melting, not recovering
The claim that the Greenland ice sheet is recovering and that earlier ice losses were due to “natural warming” is wrong, Twila Moon, deputy lead scientist at National Snow and Ice Data Center, told USA TODAY in an email.
“This is completely absurd and goes against the full and substantial evidence of modern science,” Moon said. “Greenland ice loss is well documented via several different types of direct observation … and it is well known that current ice loss is a result of human pollution and climate warming.”
The Greenland ice sheet has lost mass every year since 1998, exposing previously covered land and contributing to global sea level rise, according to NOAA. These losses have averaged around 273 billion metric tons of ice per year since 2002, according to NASA.
“There is no sign that the Greenland Ice Sheet is recovering. Instead, ongoing ice loss is certain, with the rate and amount of ice loss – especially after roughly 2050 – still highly dependent on what humans do,” Moon said.
Ice loss driven by human emissions, not natural warming
Greenhouse gas emissions released by humans have been, and continue to be, the major driver of Greenland ice melt by causing global temperatures to increase, Eric Rignot, a senior research scientist at NASA and professor at the University of California Irvine, told USA TODAY.
However, the article implies that a recent paper by a team of Japanese researchers contradicts this fact and supports the article’s headline claim that scientists attributed earlier Greenland ice loss to natural warming and not CO2 emissions.”
But this is a mischaracterization of the paper’s findings, Shinji Matsumura, lead author on the paper and Hokkaido University environmental researcher, told USA TODAY in an email. The paper merely ties variability in the Greenland ice sheet melting rates to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation – a natural pattern of short-term climate variation.
The paper does not state that the melting itself is caused by natural warming, he said. Nor does it state that melting has stopped or that the ice sheet is recovering.
“The Greenland ice sheet is melting in the long run due to global warming associated with greenhouse gas emissions,” Matsumura said in a press release.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that the Greenland ice sheet is recovering and earlier melting was caused by “natural warming.” The ice sheet continues to melt due to human-caused global climate change, according to researchers.
Our fact-check sources:
- Shinji Matsumura, Oct. 11, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Eric Rignot, Oct. 10, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Twila Moon, Oct. 11, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- AFP, Oct. 6, Article misrepresents studies on Greenland climate
- Communications Earth & Environment, Oct. 2, Slow-down in summer warming over Greenland in the past decade linked to central Pacific El Niño
- USA TODAY, Dec. 30, 2021, Fact check: Greenland is still losing ice; no reversal in trend
- USA TODAY, June 28, Fact check: Arctic sea ice declining despite false claims it’s reached a 30-year high
- NASA, accessed Oct. 7, Ice sheets
- NASA, accessed Oct. 7, Sea level rise
- Hokkaido University, April 6, Simulations explain Greenland’s slower summer warming
- University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, accessed Oct. 10, Greenland’s Ice Is Melting
- PNAS, April 22, 2019, Forty-six years of Greenland Ice Sheet mass balance from 1972 to 2018
- Nature, Dec. 10, 2019, Mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet from 1992 to 2018
- NASA, March 16, 2020, Greenland, Antarctica melting six times faster than in the 1990s
- NOAA Arctic Program, accessed Oct. 13, Arctic report card: Update for 2021
- Science Advances, June 19, 2019, Contribution of the Greenland Ice Sheet to sea level over the next millennium
- NASA Vital Signs of the Planet, accessed Oct. 13, Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Extent
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