How Greenland Would Look Without Its Ice Cap

How Greenland Would Look Without Its Ice Cap.

New maps of Greenland’s coastal seafloor and bedrock beneath its massive ice sheet show that two to four times as many coastal glaciers are at risk of accelerated melting due to climate change as previously thought. In a new study, researchers at the University of California at Irvine, NASA and 30 other institutions have published the most comprehensive, accurate and high-resolution relief maps ever made of Greenland’s bedrock and coastal seafloor. The new study was published today in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The top 200 meters (600 feet) of ocean water around Greenland comes from the Arctic and is relatively cold. But the water below 200 meters comes from farther south and is 3 to 4 degrees Celsius (6 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the water above. The new maps reveal that two to four times more oceanfront glaciers extend deeper than 200 meters below sea level than earlier maps showed. It means exposing more deeper-seated glaciers to this warmer water, which melts them more rapidly.

The research team used the new maps to refine their estimate of Greenland’s total volume of ice and its potential to add to global sea level rise if the ice were to melt completely, which is not expected to occur within the next few hundred years. Their results suggest Greenland’s contribution to future sea level rise is 7.42 meters (24.34 feet), 7 centimetres (2.76 inches) higher than previous estimates. “These results suggest that Greenland’s ice is more threatened by changing climate than we had anticipated,” said Josh Willis, the Oceans Melting Greenland’s principal investigator and researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who was not involved in producing the new maps. Credit: American Geophysical Union.

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