Rapidly Melting Glacier Will Raise Sea Levels ‘For Decades To Come’

Global warming is claiming yet another massive glacier in Greenland, causing it to crumble into the Atlantic Ocean at an alarming rate.

The Zachariae Isstrom glacier in northeast Greenland entered a “phase of accelerated retreat” in 2012 and is now losing its mass at a rate of 5 billion tons per year, according to a new study published in the journal Science.

In a press release, the study’s lead author, Jeremie Mouginot, an associate project scientist at the University of California, Irvine, said the glaciers in North Greenland are changing “rapidly” and that the Zachariae Isstrom retreat “will result in rising sea levels for decades to come.

While there is no timeframe for how long a full melt would take, scientists warn such an event would raise global sea levels by more than 18 inches.

Zachariae Isstrom is one of the three main glaciers that feeds into the roughly 373-mile-long Northeast Greenland Ice Stream. Ice streams drain ice from the interior of an ice sheet. Historically, they drain slowly since the streams are clogged with floating ice debris.

But a 2014 study of Zachariae — which drains ice from about 5 percent of the Greenland Ice Sheet — found that because the stream wasn’t as clogged with ice, the glacier was retreating at an accelerated rate, suggesting a kind of downward spiral.

Now, using data from aerial surveys and satellite-based observations, scientists have measured changes in the size, position and shape of the region’s glacial ice and determined that Zachariae Isstrom is “being hit from above and below.”

“The top of the glacier is melting away as a result of decades of steadily increasing air temperatures,” according to senior author Eric Rignot, “while its underside is compromised by —> Read More