The world’s glaciers are melting 100 times faster than originally predicted

For many years we’ve known that the world’s glaciers are melting as a result of climate change, causing the water level of the oceans to rise. But it now appears that the melt rate of the glaciers is even greater than first believed, possibly as much as 100 times faster.

A newly published paper warns:

“Researchers have revealed that ice on the submerged bottoms of ocean-edge glaciers may be melting at a much faster rate — possibly 100 times faster — than current models predict. And that could have serious implications for the rate at which the seas rise.”

Rebecca Jackson, an oceanographer at Rutgers University who took part in the study, noted:

“We measured both the ocean properties in front of the glacier and the melt rates, and we found that they are not related in the way we expected. These two sets of measurements show that melt rates are significantly, sometimes up to a factor of 100, higher than existing theory would predict.”

As the glaciers melt and the sea-level rises, coastal cities across the globe could be threatened by increased flooding:

“Rising temperatures increase surface melting; scientists expect more meltwater will trickle down as the climate warms, exacerbating this process and ultimately threatening coastal cities around the world.”

One of the main reasons it has been difficult to get accurate measurements of just how rapidly glacial ice is melting has to do with the enormous size of the chunks that break off from the main glacier. At times, measurements can even threaten the lives of those attempting to gather data. But lead study author David A. Sutherland and his team found a way around that:

“Sutherland and his team … spent multiple days in a boat, bobbing in the iceberg-strewn waters, while instruments anchored to their craft collected data about water temperature, salinity and flow near the glacier’s terminus. Their innovation was to deploy a multibeam sonar instrument—similar to technology commercial fishers use to spot a prizewinning catch—to repeatedly map the topography of the glacier’s face from a safe distance. By tracking the glacier’s shape over time, they could see which parts of it were melting. When they combined that information with GPS data that tracked the glacier’s movement, they could chart the rate of meltwater flow.”

All of this means that it is now more urgent than ever that for humanity to address the underlying causes of global climate change and take action before we reach a point of no return.


Featured Image Via YouTube Screenshot


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Andrew Bradford

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