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Global warming reaches central Greenland


Berlin – A temperature reconstruction from ice cores of the past 000 years reveals that today’s warming in central-north Greenland is surprisingly pronounced.

The most recent decade surveyed in a study, the years 2001 to 2011, was the warmest in the past 1000 years and the region is now 1.5 °C warmer than during the 20th century, as researchers report.

Melting has increased substantially in Greenland since the 2000s and now significantly contributes to global sea level rise. Another major finding from the study is the climate of the Greenland ice sheet is largely decoupled from the rest of the Arctic.

Using a set of ice cores unprecedented in length and quality, they reconstructed past temperatures in central-north Greenland and melting rates of the ice sheet.

The Greenland ice sheet plays a pivotal part in the global climate system. With enormous amounts of water stored in the ice, about three million cubic kilometres, melt and resulting sea level rise is considered a potential tipping point.

For business as usual global emissions rates, the ice sheet is projected to contribute up to 50 centimetres to global mean sea level by 2100.

Weather stations along the coast have been recording rising temperatures for many years. But the influence of global warming on the up to 3000 m elevated parts of the ice sheet have remained unclear to due to the lack of long-term observations.

In a study just published in Nature, experts from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research also in Germany, have provided new evidence that effects of global warming have reached the remote, high-elevation areas of central-north Greenland.

The research found warming in 2001 to 2011 clearly differs from natural variations during the past 1000 years.

Although grimly expected in the light of global warming, the researchers were surprised by how evident this difference really was.

Previous ice cores obtained at co-located sites starting in the 1990s, did not indicate clear warming in central north Greenland, despite rising global mean temperatures. Part of the reason is substantial natural climate variability in the region.

The researchers have extended the previous datasets up to winter 2011/2012 by a dedicated redrilling effort, recovering time series unprecedented length and quality.

New Zealand and Greenland have some similarities. But if Kiwis lived in Greenland their lives would be 8.6 years less.

In New Zealand, the average life expectancy is 83 years (81 years for men, 84 years for women) as of 2022. In Greenland, that number is 74 years (71 years for men, 77 years for women) as of 2022. In Greenland, people are 23.9% less likely to have internet access, compared with Aotearoa.

Photo: Tasiilaq in eastern Greenland