Greenland is Losing its Glacier Fringe and is Figuratively Rising out of the Ocean

Greenland is Losing its Glacier Fringe and is Figuratively Rising out of the Ocean

Greenland, one of the primary sources of meltwater that inundates Earth’s shores, is actually rising faster than the rising oceans in a humorous quirk of physics.

Small islands and skerries like Uunartoq Qeqertaq are among the new land that is being progressively born in Greenland’s sea due to the raising bedrock. This new landmass off the east coast of Greenland, which translates to “warming island,” was formally acknowledged and added to the country’s maps in 2005. It is 13 kilometers (8 miles) long.

“The land uplift we observe in Greenland these years cannot be solely explained by the natural post-ice age development,” explains Technical University of Denmark (DTU) geodesist Shfaqat Abbas Khan. “Greenland is rising significantly more.”

With its frozen layer of water gradually leaking into the sea, Greenland has been rising steadily since the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago. However, data from 58 GPS sites nationwide (GNET) shows that this melting has been happening far more quickly.

Greenland’s bedrock has risen up to 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) in the previous ten years, according to research by DTU geodesist Danjal Longfors Berg and colleagues. This is at a rate of nearly 2 meters (6.6 feet) every century.

“With our data from GNET, we can precisely isolate the part of land uplift caused by the current global climate changes,” says Khan.

Even though the glaciers surrounding Greenland’s edge only account for 4% of the island’s total ice cover, they are nearly 15% of the cause of its ice loss. It turns out that the elevation of the land mass is also greatly aided by this disproportionate decrease.

Because of a phenomenon known as elastic rebound, the mass loss from these outer glaciers is contributing to an increase in certain places that is even higher than the loss of the main Greenland ice sheet.

Here, like a squished pillow released to take up greater volume, the formerly compacted earth relaxes into its more naturally expanded shape after being freed from the weight of the surroundings.

The highest uplift the researchers detected was caused by the retreated 10 kilometers Kangerlussuaq glacier in southeast Greenland, which is equivalent to 8 millimeters each year.

Previous research has taken into consideration this process as a result of the main ice sheet melting, but until recently the periphery ice had not been properly taken into account. Sea level projections will be more accurate for academics if they have a better knowledge of the uplift.

“These are quite significant land uplifts that we can now demonstrate. They indicate that local changes in Greenland are happening very rapidly, impacting life in Greenland,” explains Berg.

This strange occurrence is just one more example of how climate change is drastically altering the physical landscape of our planet. The Earth’s axis shifting and the shrinkage of a whole layer of atmosphere are instances from the past.

Sanchita Patil

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