Home Emergency Management News Decreasing Arctic Ice Contributing to Greenland Ice Sheet Melting

Decreasing Arctic Ice Contributing to Greenland Ice Sheet Melting


According to a recent American Meteorological Society study, the continued decrease in Arctic sea ice is a contributing factor in the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

As sea ice in the Arctic continues to decline in summer months, the impact is ultimately felt as an overall warming trend. A decrease in Arctic sea ice increases the occurrences of blocking-high pressure events, which is responsible for enhancing the movement of warm, moist air over Greenland. The introduction of warm, moist air then causes an increased downwelling of infrared radiation and plays a part in increased extreme heat events. The end result: an overall warming trend involving Greenland.

Photo Credit: United States Federal Government
Photo Credit: United States Federal Government

Sea level rise

The melting of Greenland's ice sheet has led to an approximately 8mm global sea level rise in the last two decades, sparking concerns for coastal communities worldwide. Complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet would cause an approximate 20 foot rise in sea level globally, which would be devastating tp coastal cities and some island nations.

Change in atmospheric circulations

Findings from 2012 show a persistent and irregular ridge of warm air led to the surface melting of 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet. The study also found that the surface energy balance was being modulated by the warm air ridge's low-level, thin, liquid clouds.

Rapid decline of Arctic sea ice

Research shows a growing body of evidence that supports northern mid-and high-latitude atmospheric circulations being influenced by the rapid decline of Arctic sea ice. The study indicates that it is the change in these atmospheric circulation patterns that is the contributing factor to the Greenland ice sheet surface melt.

Increased extreme weather events

Further indications of these changing atmospheric circulation patterns suggests that there is the possibility of an increased frequency of extreme weather events in Europe and the North Atlantic region during the summer months.  These changes are likely to increase if current anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions continue.

The study suggests that findings may enhance projections for changes of the thermohaline circulation and global sea level rise in light of ongoing climate change.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.