News & Opinion | April 25, 2019 1:43 pm

Greenland Has Lost 11 Quadrillion Pounds of Water to Climate Change

That's a 1 with 15 zeros after it, for those wondering

Landscape of the Greenland Ice Sheet
The Greenland Ice Sheet is melting rapidly. (Martin Zwick/ REDA&CO/UIG via Getty)
UIG via Getty Images

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The Greenland Ice Sheet, the world’s second largest reservoir of fresh water, is falling apart.

The famed ice sheet is melting so rapidly that it’s responsible for adding a quarter inch of water to global sea levels in just the past eight years. That’s the finding of a new study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Scienceswhich analyzed the ice sheet for over 20 years, according to The Atlantic.

The study found that climate change has already bled trillions of tons of ice from the island reservoir, with more loss than expected coming from its unstable northern half.

“The glaciers are still being pushed out of balance,” said Eric Rignot, a senior scientist at NASA and an author of the paper. “Even though the ice sheet has [sometimes] been extremely cold and had low surface melt in the last year, the glaciers are still speeding up, and the ice sheet is still losing mass.”

The transformation of the Greenland Ice Sheet is one of the more profound geological shifts in the history of mankind, according to the paper. The water held in ice sheets is measured in “gigatons” — each of which could provide enough water for New York or Los Angeles for a year. And according to the paper, the Greenland Ice Sheet has lost 4,976 gigatons of water since 1972. That’s enough water to fill 1.3 quadrillion gallon jugs. It weighs about 11 quadrillion pounds. (A quadrillion is 1 with 15 zeros after it, for those wondering.)

Half of that ice was lost between 2010 and 2018, and the ice sheet has also failed to grow at all in any year since 1998.