A team of glaciologists, scientists that specialize in studying glaciers, has discovered that Canadian glaciers are a major source of the rising sea level. As climate change worsens, these glaciers will continue to melt rapidly. The findings are in a paper that was just published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
Climate change is primarily caused by human activities. The burning of fossil fuels and release of other long-lived gases, such as methane, leads to a phenomenon called the “greenhouse effect.” Heat from the sun gets trapped by these gases and scatters across the planet, causing global warming. As the Earth’s temperature increases, warming seawater and the melting of land ice triggers a rise in the sea level. If nothing is done to reduce the production of greenhouse gases, higher sea levels will be devastating across the globe. A recent NOAA report predicted that some regions, such as New York City, could begin experiencing serious floods by the year 2030. Scientists are now prioritizing climate change research and looking for the biggest sources of sea level rise.
Researchers from the University of California, Irvine analyzed surface ice melt data from 1991 to 2015 to identify major contributors to the rising global sea level. The team found that after 2005, one of the largest sources of ice loss was the Canadian ice cap, which contains a quarter of the world’s Arctic ice. Ice melt off in the Queen Elizabeth Islands has rapidly increased since 2005 and is now a huge contributor to sea level rise. In fact, 90% of sea level rise is now attributed to the melting of surface ice, including mountain glaciers.
The team’s findings show that ice discharge from land sources, such as ice caps, is now the main source of sea level rise. The Queen Elizabeth Islands are experiencing rapid ice melt off and the problem will get even worse as global warming continues to raise atmospheric temperatures. The only way to mitigate this issue would be to decrease the production of greenhouse gases while continuing climate change research.
Millan et al. Mass budget of the glaciers and ice caps of the Queen Elizabeth Islands, Canada, from 1991 to 2015. Environmental Research Letters (2017).