Large and irreversible future decline of the Greenland ice-sheet

In this research study, Jonathan M. Gregory et al., have studied the evolution of the Greenland ice-sheet under a range of constant climates typical of those projected for the end of the present century, using a dynamical ice-sheet model (Glimmer) coupled to an atmospheric general circulation model (FAMOUS-ice AGCM). The ice-sheet surface mass balance (SMB) is simulated by the AGCM, including its dependence on altitude within AGCM gridboxes. Over millennia under a warmer climate, the ice-sheet reaches a new steady state, whose mass is correlated with the initial perturbation in SMB, and hence with the magnitude of global climate change imposed. For the largest global warming considered (about +5 K), the contribution to global-mean sea-level rise (GMSLR) is initially 2.7 mm yr−1, and the ice-sheet is eventually practically eliminated (giving over 7 m of GMSLR). For all RCP8.5 climates, final GMSLR exceeds 4 m.  

If late twentieth-century climate is restored, the ice-sheet will not regrow to its present extent, owing to such effects, once its mass has fallen below a threshold of about 4 m of sea-level equivalent. In that case, about 2 m of GMSLR would become irreversible. 

In order to avoid this outcome, anthropogenic climate change must be reversed before the ice-sheet has declined to the threshold mass, which would be reached in about 600 years at the highest rate of mass-loss within the likely range of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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