Fears of faster rising global sea levels as 'stable' Greenland ice sheet starts to melt

New study shows north-eastern region has been losing billions of tons of ice since 2003

A A A

Global sea levels may rise faster than anticipated due to a rapid melting of the north-east corner of the Greenland ice sheet, according to scientists. This was widely considered to be cold and stable.

Satellite measurements have shown that this part of Greenland, which covers 16 per cent of the ice sheet, has now begun to melt after many years of stability – the reason why this area was left out of computer models predicting future global sea-level rise.

Regional warming in north-east Greenland in 2003 triggered the start of the melting seen over this area of the ice sheet, the study found. Since then, it has lost about 10 billion tonnes of ice a year to the sea. The findings have surprised the researchers, who said there is now concern that Greenland may become more important than anticipated in determining how fast sea levels rise this century.

The ice sheet is already one of the main contributors to rising sea levels over the past 20 years, accounting for an increase in the average levels of 0.5mm per year, out of a total increase of 3.2mm per year. “The Greenland ice sheet has contributed more than any other ice mass to sea-level rise over the past two decades and has the potential, if completely melted, to raise global sea level by more than seven metres,” said Professor Jeremy Bamber of Bristol University, a co-author of the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“About half of the increased contribution of the ice sheet is due to the speed-up of glaciers in the south and north-west.  Until recently, north-east Greenland has been relatively stable.  This new study shows that is no longer the case.”

He added: “Most projections of the future behaviour of the ice sheet have no, or little, contribution from this part of Greenland, but these new results suggest that this region is sensitive to changes in climate and has the potential to contribute significantly now and in the future.”

The north-east segment has one of the longest ice streams – rivers of ice – draining a huge area of the ice sheet. Satellite recordings show that the Zachariae ice stream has retreated from the coast by about 20km in the past decade. This compares with a 35km retreat over 150 years for one of the fastest-moving glaciers, the Jakobshavn ice stream in the warmer region of south-west Greenland, the scientists said.

“North-east Greenland is very cold. It used to be considered the last stable part of the Greenland ice sheet. This study shows that ice loss in the north-east is now accelerating,” said Michael Bevis of Ohio State University, a co-author of the study.

“So, now it seems that all the margins of the Greenland ice sheet are unstable ... The fact that this ice loss is associated with a major ice stream that channels ice from deep in the interior of the ice sheet does add additional concern about what might happen.”

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Sport
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Sport
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities