By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Greenland is the world’s largest island and an autonomous Danish dependent territory, with a population of just 56,000. However, recently researchers are considering it “ground zero” for sea level rising.
With global warming, Greenland moves from relative obscurity to becoming prime strategic location for sea level rising. The Greenland ice sheet is said to be 10,000 feet thick in places, and to contain enough ice to raise sea levels 23 feet (7 meters).
John Englander, founder and president of the International Sea Level Institute, wrote, “This century Greenland will almost certainly be the biggest factor for global sea level rise.”
Englander goes on to write that Greenland’s contribution to sea level rising will be far greater than the effect of thermal expansion of seawater, the major contributor to sea level rising in the last century.
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the recent deglaciation of Greenland is a response to both oceanic and atmospheric forcings.
The study, Accelerating Changes in Ice Mass Within Greenland, shows that from 2000 to 2010, ice loss was concentrated in the southeast and northwest margins of the ice sheet.
Now, however, scientists have detected ice melt acceleration in southwest Greenland, ‘an area largely devoid of such glaciers’. “The sustained acceleration and continued atmospheric warming will lead to southwest Greenland becoming a major contributor to sea level rise,” concludes the study.
“One degree of warming in the future will have way more impact than one degree of warming in the last century,” one of the study’s authors, Michael Bevis told the New York Times.
In December, 2018, a team of researchers published a paper in Nature stating that satellite pictures show that losses from the Greenland ice sheet have reached their fastest rate in at least 350 years.
According to Englander “this largely overlooked land mass will change coastlines all over the world as it melts”. The sea level rising expert says that thousands of coastal cities and rural communities fate will be determined by the melting of Greenland’s huge ice sheet, including places like Shanghai, Tokyo and Miami. “Yet most of the world ignores or underestimates the risk,” concludes Englander.
Global warming has become an important issue for the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum formed by eight arctic governments (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the U.S.).
In May, during its bi-annual meeting, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, dismissed the concerns about changes seen in the area in recent years, stating that the alterations in climate could be positive. “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,” said Pompeo during a speech at the summit.
Despite protests from the other members, the Trump Administration succeeded in removing any reference to climate change from the Council’s final declaration. Instead the group signed a smaller joint declaration reaffirming the eight nations’ commitment to ‘sustainable development and the protection of the Arctic Environment’.