Mumbai, NYC, LA, Tokyo, Miami at risk? Greenland glacier melting faster than previously thought

B-44 iceberg Pine Island Glacier
B-44 iceberg Pine Island Glacier NASA

A new study has revealed that the adverse effect of climate change is eliminating giant chunks of ice from Greenland, and the rate of this melting is much rapid and faster than previously thought, posing an imminent danger to coastal cities like Mumbai, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Miami.

The research report also added that the rise in global warming will result in more ice loss in the upcoming years.

During the study, researchers reconstructed the mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet by comparing estimates of the amount of ice discharged into the ocean with the current accumulation of snowfall. The results revealed that the melting of ice has increased by six fold since 1972, and the current trend indicates a possible rise in ice melting in the upcoming years too.

"The study places the recent (20 years) evolution in a broader context to illustrate how dramatically the mass loss has been increasing in Greenland in response to climate warming," said Eric Rignot, a professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine and the co-author of the study.

Eric Rignot
Eric Rignot, Chair and Donald Bren Professor of Earth System Science, UCI UCI

Rignot has been working on interactions of ice and climate, to determine how the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland will respond to climate change in the coming century and how they will affect global sea level.

Rignot Lab uses satellite remote sensing techniques (imaging radar, laser altimetry, radio echo sounding), airborne geophysical surveys (icebridge), field surveys (radar, GPS, bathymetry, CTD), and numerical modeling (ice sheet motion, ocean circulation near glaciers, coupled ocean/ice sheet models.

This massive increase of ice in Antarctic glaciers is expected to increase the water levels in oceans, and thus the chances of flooding will be elevated drastically. The research report revealed that 50 percent of the planet's population that live in coastal cities are under threat due to this sea level rise. Some of the important cities that will affect the negative impacts of sea level rise are Mumbai, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Miami.

"Present mass-loss rates indicate that glaciers could almost disappear in some mountain ranges in this century, said another study published in Nature. They have reiterated that heavily glacierized regions will continue to contribute to sea-level rise beyond 2100.

In addition, a few weeks ago, researchers at NASA discovered a large cavity under the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica. It should be noted that the Thwaites Glacier is one of the largest glaciers in the world, and is responsible for about 4 percent of global sea level rise. The research report also revealed that this glacier holds enough ice to increase the global sea level by 65 centimeters.

In contradiction with these findings, another NASA study had found that a Greenland melting glacier which has been melting over the past so many years suddenly reversed its process and is now growing miraculously. After making this milestone discovery, experts at NASA suggested that this could only be a temporary phenomenon, which means the meltdown of glaciers cannot be reversed.

The report has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.