According to a new study published Thursday, the speed in which the glacier was thawing came about as a big surprise to the researchers. Lead author Jeremie Mouginot of the University of California in Irvine told USA Today that the glacier, which had “profoundly transformed” in just ten years, is now breaking up and “calving high volumes of icebergs into the ocean, which will result in rising sea levels for decades to come.” The study did not provide any timetable for the glacier to melt into water, though the prospect of sea levels rising by at least a foot and a half is a dire prospect indeed.
The researchers attributed the melting of the glacier to global warming affecting both the sea and the air, according to co-author Eric Rignot, also from UC-Irvine. “The top of the glacier is melting away as a result of decades of steadily increasing air temperatures, while its underside is compromised by currents carrying warmer ocean water, and the glacier is now breaking away into bits and pieces and retreating into deeper ground,” he explained in the same USA Today report.
Ice sheet decline is currently a major problem in Greenland, as decline still outstrips ice accumulation, again due to climate change bringing about warmer temperatures. This phenomenon has led to faster ice melt and glacier movement in Greenland.
Rignot believes the theory that global warming is behind the rapid ice melt in Greenland is not a surprise at all. “For a couple of decades now, we’ve been able to directly observe the results of climate warming on polar glaciers,” he continued. “The changes are staggering and are now affecting the four corners of Greenland.”