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Alarma mundial: el deshielo en Groenlandia alcanza el punto de no retorno

La capa de hielo que cubre Groenlandia está tocada de muerte. De hecho, y según se publica en Nature Communications, la retirada de los hielos ha alcanzado allí el punto de no retorno, de forma que continuaría produciéndose incluso si el calentamiento global se detuviera de repente. Después de la que cubre la Antártida, la de Groenlandia es la segunda mayor extensión de hielo del mundo. Sus glaciares llevan décadas perdiendo hielo de forma acelerada y ahora una nueva investigación llevada a cabo por científicos de la Universidad Estatal de Ohio ha descubierto que en estos momentos la pérdida de hielo glacial es hasta un 14% superior de la que se producía entre 1985 y 1999. La masa de hielo se derrite a un ritmo de 500 gigatoneladas por año (500.000 millones de toneladas), más de lo que se repone durante la estación de nevadas anuales. Según los científicos, si se proyecta esta tendencia en el futuro, la capa de hielo seguirá perdiendo masa durante 99 de los próximos 100 años. "El retroceso de los glaciares -explica Ian Howatt, coautor del estudio- ha llevado a toda la capa de hielo a una dinámica de pérdida constante. Incluso si el clima se mantuviera igual, o se enfriara un poco, la capa de hielo seguiría perdiendo masa". "Lo que hemos descubierto -añade por su parte Michaela King, autora principal de la investigación- es que el hielo que se derrite en el océano supera con creces la nieve que se acumula en la superficie de la masa helada". 200 glaciares en retroceso Para llegar a estas conclusiones, King y sus colegas analizaron datos mensuales de satélite de más de 200 grandes glaciares que desembocan en el océano alrededor de Groenlandia. Esas observaciones muestran cuánto hielo se fragmenta en forma de icebergs o se derrite directamente de los glaciares. Y también la cantidad de nieve que cae cada año, que es la forma natural en que los glaciares se van regenerando. Según el estudio, durante las décadas de 1980 y 1990 la nieve acumulada y el hielo derretido o desprendido de los glaciares estaba en equilibrio, lo que mantenía prácticamente intacta la capa de hielo. Sin embargo, prosigue King, la situación se mantuvo "relativamente estable hasta que se produjo un gran aumento en la descarga de hielo al océano durante un breve periodo de cinco o seis años". El análisis de los investigadores reveló que las pérdidas de hielo empezaron a aumentar de forma constante a partir del año 2000, pero no así las nevadas, que permanecieron constantes. Lo cual significa que, especialmente durante la última década, la capa helada de Groenlandia ha estado perdiendo más hielo del que se repone. En la situación actual, la capa de hielo solo ganará masa en uno de los próximos cien años. Según la investigadora, los grandes glaciares de Groenlandia se han retirado, como media, unos 3 km desde 1985 y eso, dijo, "es mucha distancia". Los glaciares, de hecho, se han reducido lo suficiente como para que muchos de ellos se encuentren ahora en aguas más profundas, lo que implica una mayor cantidad de hielo en contacto con el agua y, por lo tanto, un deshielo cada vez más pronunciado. Según el estudio, incluso si los humanos fuéramos ahora milagrosamente capaces de detener el cambio climático, el hielo perdido por los glaciares seguiría excediendo al obtenido por la acumulación de nieve, por lo que la capa de hielo seguiría encogiéndose durante muchos años. Esta drástica reducción de los glaciares de Groenlandia constituye un serio problema para todo el planeta. El hielo derretido, de hecho, termina en el Océano Atlántico y, finalmente, en el resto de los océanos del mundo. Y resulta que el hielo de Groenlandia es uno de los mayores contribuyentes al aumento del nivel del mar: el año pasado, por ejemplo, se derritió o desprendió la suficiente cantidad de hielo para hacer que los océanos se elevaran 2,2 mm en apenas dos meses.
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