The climate change is affecting the layer of the Greenland ice sheet. This further affects the sea level, which is rising rapidly.
Research carried out in Greenland suggests that firn layers – which are ice and snow layers near the surface – may be storing less water than experts believed.
An international team of scientists travelled to the Danish territory in the North Atlantic to examine the firn layers – which acts as a type of sponge, storing water when cold and releasing it when it begins to warm – and found that the Greenland ice sheets store less water than earlier estimates had shown.
The layer of the Greenland ice sheet is around 80 metres thick, but this is deteriorating as the atmosphere warms.
As a result, more meltwater is being released into the ocean, causing sea levels to rise.
Lead author Doctor Horst Machguth, of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, said: “Basically our research shows that the firn reacts fast to a changing climate.”Its ability to limit mass loss of the ice sheet by retaining meltwater could be smaller than previously assumed.
“It is unknown how the firn reacted to the recent very warm summer in Greenland. Our research aims to clarify whether the firn was indeed capable of retaining the meltwater, or whether the sponge has been overwhelmed.”
Researchers travelled hundreds of kilometres across Greenland, regularly drilling 20 metres through the ice and using a radar unit to measure the structure and depth of the firn layers.
A similar study was conducted 20 years ago, and the scientists aimed to test similar sites as the previous research.
The new and old sites differentiated in the fact that the more recent test locations proved to hold more ‘ice lenses’ – where the water trickles through the firn layer as it is unable to retain it.