Greenland's Temps Spike in the Shape of a Hockey Stick

Ice core data shows sharp uptick in temps there since 1995—the warmest in more than 1,000 years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 19, 2023 1:04 PM CST
Greenland Temperatures at Warmest in 1K Years
A boat navigates next to large icebergs near the town of Kulusuk, Greenland, on Aug. 15, 2019.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)

A sharp spike in Greenland temperatures since 1995 showed the giant northern island 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) hotter than its 20th-century average, the warmest in more than 1,000 years, according to new ice core data. Until now, Greenland ice cores— a glimpse into long-running temperatures before thermometers—hadn’t shown much of a clear signal of global warming on the remotest north-central part of the island, at least compared to the rest of the world. But the ice cores also hadn't been updated since 1995. Newly analyzed cores, drilled in 2011, show a dramatic rise in temperature in the previous 15 years, according to a new study in the journal Nature, per the AP.

"We keep on [seeing] rising temperatures between 1990s and 2011," said study lead author Maria Hoerhold, a glaciologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. She added: "We have now a clear signature of global warming." Hoerhold has even newer cores, from 2019, but she hasn't finished studying them yet (it takes years to analyze ice core data). The ice cores are used to make a chart of proxy temperatures for Greenland running from the year 1000 to 2011. It shows temperatures gently sloping cooler for the first 800 years, then wiggling up and down while sloping warmer, until a sharp and sudden spike hotter from the 1990s on.

One scientist compared it to a hockey stick, a description used for other long-term temperature data showing climate change. The jump in temperature after 1995 is so much larger than preindustrial times before the mid-19th century that there is "almost zero" chance that it's anything but human-caused climate change, Hoerhold said. The warming spike also mirrors a sudden rise in the amount of water running off from Greenland's melting ice, the study finds.

(More Greenland stories.)

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