Scientists fear Greenland’s melting ice sheet could generate more sea level rise than previously thought, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase and warm the atmosphere at their current rate, according to a new modeling study. Paradoxically, one of Greenland's most significant glaciers actually has experienced growth during the last three years, according to NASA.
The modeling study was prepared by the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, using data from specialized aircraft forming part of NASA's Operation IceBridge. The new model shows that if Greenland's ice continues melting at its present rate it could contribute 19 to 63 inches to global sea level rise in the next 200 years. These estimates represent an 80 percent increase over previous forecasts.
Meanwhile, the Jakobshavn Glacier — Greenland's fastest-moving and fastest-thinning glacier for most of the 2000s — grew from 2018 into 2019, marking three consecutive years of growth. The glacier grew 22 to 33 yards each year between 2016 and 2019. Scientists attribute the growth to a key ocean current which has been colder than it was prior to 2016, when the glacier's growth began. The colder water is not melting the ice from the front and underneath the glacier as quickly as the warmer water did. Importantly, although the melting rate has slowed, the glacier continues to contribute to sea level rise, ultimately losing more ice to the ocean than it gains from snow accumulation overall.
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