What is the point at which the melting of the Greenland ice cap becomes irreversible?
With each passing winter, larger storms are causing significant damage to the coastlines of Britain. This is due to the accelerated rate of sea level rise, which is expected to exacerbate the problem. The main culprit for this rise, currently at 3.4mm (0.13in) annually, is the massive Greenland ice cap. This ice sheet is 3km (1.86 miles) thick and has the potential to raise sea levels by a staggering 7 metres (23ft) if it were to completely melt.
Researchers have been determining the threshold temperature at which Greenland’s melting would be irreversible, resulting in the submergence of significant portions of the island.
The tipping point, as stated in a study published in the journal Nature, falls within the range of 1.7C to 2.3C above pre-industrial levels. With recent monthly temperatures surpassing 1.5C and predictions showing a potential increase of up to 3C in global temperatures over the course of this century, we are dangerously near the threshold.
The process will take place slowly, allowing for sufficient time to relocate inland. The paper also offers a positive outlook: if we are able to reduce the temperature increase to 1.5C in the future, the melting will eventually cease.
In contrast, the researchers highlight that once we reach a temperature decrease of 1.5C, the sea levels would have already risen by 2 to 3 meters compared to current levels.