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Greenland Ice Sheet Melting Faster Than Expected

The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than expected, according to a new study led by a University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher and published in the journal Hydrological Processes.
Image: Melting water from a glacier in Greenland runs into the ocean. (Credit: Photo by Sebastian Mernild)

Study results indicate that the ice sheet may be responsible for nearly 25 percent of global sea rise in the past 13 years. The study also shows that seas now are rising by more than 3 millimeters a year--more than 50 percent faster than the average for the 20th century.

The Greenland ice sheet has been of considerable interest to researchers over the last few years as one of the major indicators of climate change. In late 2000/early 2001 and in 2007, major glacier calving events sent up to 44 square miles of ice into the sea at a time. Researchers are studying these major events as well as the less dramatic ongoing melting of the ice sheet through runoff and surface processes.

Ice melt from a warming Arctic has two major effects on the ocean. First, increased water contributes to global sea-level rise, which in turn affects coastlines across the globe. Second, fresh water from melting ice changes the salinity of the world’s oceans, which can affect ocean ecosystems and deep water mixing.
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