Greenland is melting faster than scientists previously thought, and will likely lead to faster sea level rise, thanks to the continued, accelerating warming of the Earth's atmosphere, a new study has found.
Scientists concerned about sea level rise have long focused on Greenland's southeast and northwest regions, where large glaciers stream iceberg-sized chunks of ice into the Atlantic Ocean. Those chunks float away, eventually melting.
But a new study found that the largest sustained ice loss from early 2003 to mid-2013 came from Greenland's southwest region, which is mostly devoid of large glaciers.
That melting, researchers believe is largely caused by global warming, means that in the southwestern part of Greenland, growing rivers of water are streaming into the ocean during summer. The key finding from their study: Southwest Greenland, which previously had not been considered a serious threat, will likely become a major future contributor to sea level rise.
The findings could have serious implications for coastal U.S. cities, including New York and Miami, as well as island nations that are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels.
Before this study, scientists understood Greenland to be one of the Earth's major contributors to sea-level rise, mostly because of its glaciers. But these new findings show that scientists need to be watching the island's snow-pack and ice fields more closely, especially in and near southwest Greenland.
GPS systems in place now monitor Greenland's ice margin sheet around most of its perimeter, but the network is very sparse in the southwest, so it is necessary to densify the network there, given these new findings.