The Zachariae Isstrom, a major glacier in Greenland, is melting into the world’s ocean and it will have a serious impact globally.
In a study, researchers at the University of Kansas (KU) and at the University of California found that the Zachariae Isstrom glacier – one of Greenland’s biggest ice sheets – is melting at an annual rate of five billion tons of ice.
If the whole glacier melts, global sea levels may raise by eighteen inches (almost forty-six centimetres).
Over a period of about forty years, the researchers used mapping and bed topography (high-resolution) to document and measure changes in the Zachariae Isstrom glacier.
With the help of this advanced technology, they were able to see that Greenland’s glacier started melting at a much higher speed in the year 2000, and, unfortunately, the melting process accelerated by twenty-five percent in 2012. The drastic chances are attributed to rising temperatures.
Dr. Eric Rignot, Chancellor’s Professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and principal scientist for the Radar Science and Engineering Section at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that the Zachariae Isstrom glacier is melting both from above and below.
According to Dr. Rignot, the top of the glacier is melting because of increasing air temperatures, and its underside is at risk because of warmer ocean water. As a result, the Zachariae Isstrom glacier is breaking into bits and pieces.
Dr. John Paden, associate scientist for the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) stated that the study was focused on the grounding line, the place where ice starts to float as a glacier melts, and where the thickness across the ice can be determined a lot better.
The researchers also want to find what impact the melting of the Zachariae Isstrom glacier will have globally. For instance, small island countries like Micronesia will be affected the most because of the rising sea levels. Moreover, nearly every coastal country – like the United States – is also at risk, according to Dr. Paden.
The reason why researchers focus on ice sheets is to try and mitigate the problem, and understand how soon the glaciers are likely to melt in their entirety.
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