Greenland’s Rapid Ice Melt Could Jeopardize Major Cities

Surface ice melt on Greenland’s ice sheet Photo: Ian Joughin, AP

Sea level rise caused by rapidly melting ice sheets in Greenland is now even more likely to adversely impact the most vulnerable coastal cities: Shanghai, Hong Kong, Osaka (Japan), Rio de Janeiro, and Miami, according to a news report in The Guardian.  A new study published by the National Academies of Sciences led by scientists from Ohio State found that ice loss between 2003 and 2013 was greater than previously thought because, in addition to glaciers, a greater amount of melting during that time came from ice sheets in the southwest region of the island, which is largely glacier-free and had not been as closely studied in the past.  Scientists now believe that the sheets are melting due to global temperature increases, and this causes rivers of melting ice to flow into the Atlantic Ocean, causing sea level to rise.  

  • According to CNN, a study published last month in the scientific journal Nature found that Greenland’s ice sheets contain enough water to raise global sea levels by 23 feet.
  • That study found that the ice sheets have been melting at an “unprecedented” rate, 50% higher than pre-industrial levels and 33% above 20th-century levels.
  • The new study puts a finer point on those findings — by using GPS data to show that by 2012, the rate of ice loss had accelerated to nearly four times what it was in 2003.

The study’s lead other did not sugar coat the findings.  He said, “The only thing we can do is adapt and mitigate further global warming — it’s too late for there to be no effect. This is going to cause additional sea level rise. We are watching the ice sheet hit a tipping point.”

Why This Matters:  It’s a tri-fecta:  Antartica is melting faster than scientists believed, the oceans are warming faster too, and now we learn that Greenland (and likely the entire Arctic) is also melting more quickly as time goes on.  Some scientists objected to using the “tipping point” terminology because it implies that the world is coming to an end.  But Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview on Monday, according to The Hill, that climate change “will ‘destroy the planet’ in a dozen years if humans do not address the issue, no matter the cost.”  The rhetoric is getting as hot as the planet.  But as the polls are now showing, maybe it is finally getting the public to see climate change as the tremendous challenge that it is.  

To See It:  Check out this New York Times interactive story from 2015, and the stunning visuals that show the rivers of melting ice in Greenland.

Up Next

Invasive Species are Hitch-hiking Thousands of Miles on Ocean Plastic

Invasive Species are Hitch-hiking Thousands of Miles on Ocean Plastic

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Invasive species are hitching a ride on increasing ocean plastic pollution, surfing to distant shores. For centuries, stowaways like zebra mussels arrived on the hulls of ships, but now, hundreds of species are “rafting” across oceans on marine litter. These invasive species now threaten the balance of ecosystems across the globe and exacerbate biodiversity […]

Continue Reading 531 words
CHOW Day 2 Closes with Discussions of Global Policy Inclusivity

CHOW Day 2 Closes with Discussions of Global Policy Inclusivity

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Today marks the last day of Capitol Hill Ocean Week. Don’t miss today’s talks on justice and equity as well as the CHOW Closing Plenary. Yesterday, experts got busy discussing international policy, inclusivity, and uplifting communities. Global ocean policy will play a significant role in halting catastrophic temperature rise, but we must […]

Continue Reading 583 words
Capitol Hill Oceans Week Kicks Off

Capitol Hill Oceans Week Kicks Off

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Today kicks of Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2021 (CHOW), an annual, three-day event organized by the National Marine Sanctuary foundation that encourages activists worldwide to engage in dialogue about sustaining the health of our oceans and Great Lakes. This year, CHOW hopes to shine a light on the role of environmental justice and […]

Continue Reading 658 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.