The impact of glaciers over the long term when it comes to climate change is not to be underestimated. If caused to melt at significant rates, glaciers worldwide are capable of adding many feet to the global sea level. Such rises would decimate life as we know it on the planet, eliminating coastlines, islands and heavily inhabited regions. Which is why increasing our understanding of glaciers is vitally important.
When it comes to global warming and glaciers, the news is often not positive. However, new research published in the journal Science indicates that Greenland has not met previous studies’ expectations in terms of contribution to sea level rise. Studies previously performed have indicated that Greenland glaciers would likely double their speed by the year 2010 and contribute significantly more to sea levels.
However, the new study indicates that Greenland glaciers have sped up by approximately thirty percent between 2000 and 2010, as opposed to 100 percent estimated by the previous study by 2010. The team studied more than 200 glaciers in Greenland using data from the year 2000 forward. Satellite data indicating the speed of the glaciers was obtained from multiple countries, namely Canada, Japan and Germany.
In addition, the previous study indicated that the glaciers would double their speed and then level off in terms of speed. However, this new study indicated that it is not likely that the glaciers would stop gaining speed, allowing the glaciers to contribute more to sea level rises. Also, despite the glaciers not having met the previous estimates, the study indicated that the glaciers could begin gaining speed at any time.
Co-author of the study, Ian Howat from Ohio State University, stated: “There is the caveat that this ten-year time series is too short to really understand long-term behavior. There still may be future events- tipping points- that could cause large increases in glacier speeds to continue. […] Perhaps some of the big glaciers in the north of Greenland that have not yet exhibited any changes may begin to speed up, which would greatly increase the rate of sea-level rise.”