In 2019, Greenland experienced a hot Arctic summer that has lost 600 billion tons of ice, which is enough to raise global sea levels by nearly a tenth of an inch (2.2 millimeters) in just two months.
Additionally, the study also infers that Antarctica continues to lose mass, particularly in the Amundsen Sea Embayment and the Antarctic Peninsula on the western part of the continent. However, those losses have been partially balanced by gains from risen snowfall in the northeast.
“We knew this past summer had been particularly warm in Greenland, melting every corner of the ice sheet. But the numbers are enormous.”,” said author Isabella Velicogna, a senior project scientist at JPL and a professor at UCI.
Shockingly, 2019’s summer’s ice losses are more than double Greenland’s 2002-2019 yearly average.
Both the GRACE and GRACE-FO satellites were created to measure the change in Earth’s gravitational pull that occurs due to changes in mass, including water. As the water flows around the planet like flowing ocean currents, melting ice, falling rain, and so on, it changes the gravitational pull ever so slightly.
In 2002, the first GRACE mission was begun and decommissioned in October 2017. GRACE-FO is based on similar technology and designed as GRACE, to continue the data record of its predecessor, launched in May 2018. Because of this significant gap, the study team used self-sufficient data to test and confirm that both GRACE and GRACE-FO data over Greenland and Antarctica were consistent.
The study, titled “Continuity of Ice Sheet Mass Loss in Greenland and Antarctica From the GRACE and GRACE Follow-On Missions,” was issued on March 18 in Geophysical Research Letters.
JPL managed the GRACE mission and accomplished the GRACE-FO mission for NASA’s Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA.