Greenland Ice Sheet Rapidly Melting, Scientists Find

Greenland's ice sheet shrank more rapidly last summer than at any other time in the past 50 years, measurements have shown.

Researchers said the extent of the melt was evidence that the ice sheet was in "inexorable decline" because of global warming.

The researchers found a shift in meteorological patterns over the past 15 years, with a direct correlation being found between Greenland's weather and the generally warmer weather across both the northern and southern hemispheres.

Previously, regional influences had held sway.

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An international team of glaciologists and climatologists led by Edward Hanna, of the University of Sheffield, England, reached its conclusion after analyzing weather and ice records since 1958.

"Our work shows that global warming is beginning to take its toll on the Greenland ice sheet which, as a relic feature of the last Ice Age, has already been living on borrowed time and seems now to be in inexorable decline," Dr Hanna said. "The question is: Can we reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in time to make enough of a difference to curb this decay?"

Last summer was found to have witnessed the greatest rate of melt, exceeding 2005, which previously held the record.

Five of the top nine years for meltwater run-off have also taken place since 2000.

The ice sheet was shrinking rapidly because the increasing amounts of snow in the winter were only offsetting about 80 per cent of the ice melt in summer.

The team published its findings in the Journal of Climate.

However, its report acknowledged that temperatures in southern Greenland during the 1930s and 1940s were at least as warm as in recent years.