WEDNESDAY, June 28, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Decreasing cloud cover in summertime over the last 20 years is causing the Greenland ice sheet to melt much more rapidly, new research shows.
British researchers analyzed data from earth-observing satellites and high-resolution climate models and found a consistent decrease in summer cloud cover since 1995. The resulting increase in summer sunshine allows more solar radiation to reach the Earth's surface and prompt more melting, they said.
Since 1995, Greenland has lost about 4,000 gigatons of ice, which is the biggest single contributor to the rise in global sea levels, according to the authors of the study, published June 28 in the journal Science Advances.
They said a 1 percent reduction in summer cloud cover is equivalent to 27 gigatons of extra ice melt on the Greenland ice sheet, about the same as the annual domestic water supply of the United States.
"The impact of increased sunshine during summer is large, it explains about two-thirds of Greenland's melting signal in recent decades. Until now, we thought that the recent Greenland melt is caused almost exclusively by higher temperatures and the resulting feedbacks," lead author Stefan Hofer, a Ph.D. student in the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol, said in a university news release.
"Our study shows that there is more to the story than the local increase in temperatures and the change in cloud cover isn't just a blip, it's been happening for the last two decades. That was a big surprise," he added.
The World Health Organization has more on climate change.