Greenland’s ice is melting much faster than we thought. Here’s why that’s scary.

Our planet is warming and its cryosphere — Earth’s frozen regions — is melting. This we know.

The Arctic, in particular, is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the planet. And this winter, the sheet of Arctic sea ice that grows and shrinks in an annual cycle was at its second lowest extent since scientists began measuring it with satellites.

But the ice that floats in the ocean is far from the only ice in the Arctic scientists track closely to understand the effects and impacts of climate change.

The island of Greenland, population 56,000, is almost entirely covered in ice that is more than a mile thick in some areas. That’s roughly 8 percent of all ice on Earth.

And since 1998, it’s been melting, adding about 0.027 inches a year to global sea levels. If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it would raise global sea levels by 20 feet. That’s enough to inundate much of lower Manhattan in New York City and flood the National Mall in Washington, DC.

So figuring out how much and how fast this ice is thawing is crucial to the fate of the planet as we know it. And new research looking at these questions is pretty ominous.

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