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Journal Article

Overshooting the critical threshold for the Greenland ice sheet


Bochow,  Nils
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Poltronieri,  Anna
External Organizations;


Robinson,  Alexander
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Montoya,  Marisa
External Organizations;

Rypdal,  Martin
External Organizations;


Boers,  Niklas
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

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Bochow, N., Poltronieri, A., Robinson, A., Montoya, M., Rypdal, M., Boers, N. (2023): Overshooting the critical threshold for the Greenland ice sheet. - Nature, 622, 528-536.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_28872
Melting of the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) in response to anthropogenic global warming poses a severe threat in terms of global sea-level rise (SLR)1. Modelling and palaeoclimate evidence suggest that rapidly increasing temperatures in the Arctic can trigger positive feedback mechanisms for the GrIS, leading to self-sustained melting2,3,4, and the GrIS has been shown to permit several stable states5. Critical transitions are expected when the global mean temperature (GMT) crosses specific thresholds, with substantial hysteresis between the stable states6. Here we use two independent ice-sheet models to investigate the impact of different overshoot scenarios with varying peak and convergence temperatures for a broad range of warming and subsequent cooling rates. Our results show that the maximum GMT and the time span of overshooting given GMT targets are critical in determining GrIS stability. We find a threshold GMT between 1.7 °C and 2.3 °C above preindustrial levels for an abrupt ice-sheet loss. GrIS loss can be substantially mitigated, even for maximum GMTs of 6 °C or more above preindustrial levels, if the GMT is subsequently reduced to less than 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels within a few centuries. However, our results also show that even temporarily overshooting the temperature threshold, without a transition to a new ice-sheet state, still leads to a peak in SLR of up to several metres.