Wind Observations over Greenland could Improve Predictions and Mitigate the Threat of Global Sea-Level Rise

17 November 2022

Written by: hgamble

New research has revealed how high-latitude winds are driving the acceleration of Greenland ice loss.

New research has revealed how high-latitude winds are driving the acceleration of Greenland ice loss.

The Greenland ice sheet has lost ice mass at an accelerated pace over the last two decades, causing global sea levels to rise. This trend is expected to continue with ongoing human-driven climate change.

A new study by Professor of Climate Science and Meteorology at University of Lincoln, UK, Edward Hanna, alongside Daniel Topal from the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Science, Institute for Geological and Geochemical Research, ELKH, Budapest Hungary, and several other authors, has shown that current models have limitations in capturing observed connections between Greenland ice sheet melt and changes in high-latitude winds.

Co-author of the study, Edward Hanna, said: “Our work indicates that computer models of climate change have difficulty capturing some key elements of the changes over the Greenland region. Therefore, more work is needed to improve predictions of Greenland climate change and the impact that melting ice has on global sea-level rise.”

Global climate models have observed the Greenland melt increase and suggest that the extra melt is due to a generally warmer atmosphere arising from human-driven greenhouse gas warming and less associated with regional wind changes. The study suggests that these models, however, and their bias may severely limit the ability to make accurate predictions of future sea-level rise.

Research suggests that these winds are linked with decadal variability of tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures. However, uncertainties remain regarding tropical-Arctic linkages, and it is unclear whether the global climate models actually respond to tropical sea-surface temperature.

The findings of the study highlight an urgent need for improved understanding of the observed Greenland ice sheet climate changes. This will enable more effective adaptation and mitigation plans to address the challenging threat posed by global sea-level rise.

Lead author of the study, Daniel Topal, said “A key research priority should focus on why models tend to overestimate the warming magnitude driven by anthropogenic forcing over some parts of the Arctic without suggesting any general atmospheric circulation change as observed from 2000.

“It is critical that we can accurately pinpoint how warming happens in terms of atmosphere, ice, and ocean interactions and processes. More detailed knowledge of driving factors will enable us to prepare for future scenarios of Greenland melting.”

The research was published on 14th November 2022 in the journal Nature Communications.