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Accelerated ice loss in Greenland

February 2020: Accelerated ice loss in Greenland corresponds to the IPCC high-end climate scenario and identifies warming oceans and warmer air temperatures as primary catalysts. Melting ice will cause sea levels to rise, which, in turn, exposes more coastal communities to flooding, hurricanes, and storm surges. It strengthens calls to mitigate climate change and limit warming to the IPCC’s low-end scenario.


Joint research from 96 polar scientists from 50 international organisations have produced evidence that Greenland is losing ice seven times faster than in the 1990s. The accelerated ice loss corresponds to the IPCC’s high-end climate warming scenario which predicts a rise of sea levels by 7 cm. Since 1992, Greenland has lost 3.8 trillion tonnes of ice which may have increased global sea levels by 10.6 mm. Drawing from regional climate modelling, the researchers identify surface melting due to warmer air temperatures and increased glacier flow due to warmer ocean temperatures as the main reasons for accelerated ice loss.

Implications and opportunities

Melting glaciers or ice sheets increases sea levels which exposes people to flooding and heightens risks for coastal communities. The paper predicts that at current melting rates, by 2100 more than 400,000 million people would be exposed to flooding, storm surges, high tides, and intensified hurricanes. The researchers urge governments and business to intensify efforts to mitigate climate change and reduce warming to the IPCC’s low-end warming scenario.


The research builds on climate modelling which provides a general tendency of climate events but is dependent on future climate projections; hence the papers results should be seen within its methodological framework.


IMBIE Team. (2019). Mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet from 1992-2018. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1855-2

Forbes. (2020). Greenland’s ice melt rate has now accelerated to a whopping 234 billion tons of ice lost per year. Retrieved from

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Adele Wiliams

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.