Greenland Ice Sheets Melting Faster Than Expected

Greenland, home to the only permanent ice sheet outside of Antarctica, is losing 40 trillion pounds more ice each year than scientists previously thought, a new survey revealed.

Scientists from Ohio State University and the University of Buffalo used GPS and satellite technology to estimate the loss of ice by measuring changes in gravity, along with software simulations, to estimate the rate of ice lost, according to ABC News.

The study, published in scientific journal Science Advances, found that instead of the 550 trillion pounds of ice melting each year, Greenland is losing 590 trillion, a 7.6 percent difference.

For context, New York City's Empire State Building weighs 730 million pounds, so Greenland is losing additional ice each year equal to about 50,000 Empire State Buildings, ABC News reports. 

Despite the massive weight, which is difficult for human minds to put in context, study co-author Beata Csatho says "it's still a small percentage."

"I don't think it changes the picture of what's going on," Csatho said.

The new information "brings a more significant change to our understanding of where within the ice sheet that loss has happened, and where it is happening now," study co-author Michael Bevis of Ohio State University told USA Today.

Scientists keep a close eye on the Earth's ice sheets in places like Greenland and Antarctica because the melting ice can raise the water level of the planet's oceans. If Greenland's ice sheets were to melt completely, the National Snow and Ice Data Center says the sea level would rise 20 feet. It's not an immediate concern, as the ice sheets remain largely intact.

Sources: ABC News, USA Today / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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