The Zachariae Isstrom glacier is melting rapidly, which is a big deal since it represents a large percentage of Greenland’s ice sheet volume. Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are already blaming global warming for causing the Zachariae Isstrom glacier to melt, and they believe climate change could eventually raise the global sea level more than 18 inches if just this one glacier melts.
In a related report by the Inquisitr, it’s a global warming fact that about half of Americans are not concerned about global warming or climate change. But people in the Persian Gulf are worrying since it’s possible a heat wave could make the Persian Gulf uninhabitable.
A new NASA study published in the journal Science discusses how researchers discovered that the Zachariae Isstrom glacier had become unstable and broken off in 2012. The Zachariae Isstrom glacier is now melting at a rate of five billion tons every year, which can be quite devastating since the glacier holds about five percent of the Greenland ice sheet, or about 35,440 square miles.
“North Greenland glaciers are changing rapidly,” said Jeremie Mouginot, an assistant researcher in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine. “The shape and dynamics of Zachariae Isstrom have changed dramatically over the last few years. The glacier is now breaking up and calving high volumes of icebergs into the ocean, which will result in rising sea levels for decades to come.”
The warming of the oceans is believed to be a major factor in why the Zachariae Isstrom glacier is melting. The bottom of the giant glacier is being rapidly eroded by a mixture of melt water from Greenland’s ice sheet and the warmer ocean water.
At the same time, Eric Rignot, Chancellor’s Professor of Earth system science at UCI, and Joint Faculty Appointee at JPL, says the Zachariae Isstrom glacier’s ice on top is also melting. While the underside is being eroded by the ocean, the topside is melting away due to increasing air temperatures in this region of Earth.
The researchers are also concerned about two other sections of the melting Greenland ice sheet, the Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden glacier and the Petermann-Humboldt glacier. While the Zachariae Isstrom glacier has enough ice to raise the global sea level by 18 inches, if the Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden glacier also melted the ocean levels would be up by 39 inches. In the worst case scenarios, all of these Greenland glacier sheets could collapse, raising the sea level by several feet.
“Not long ago, we wondered about the effect on sea levels if Earth’s major glaciers in the polar regions were to start retreating,” Rignot said. “We no longer need to wonder; for a couple of decades now, we’ve been able to directly observe the results of climate warming on polar glaciers. The changes are staggering and are now affecting the four corners of Greenland.”
The Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Growing As Greenland Melts
Climate change scientists have long believed that the melting of the glaciers could cause sea levels to rise over time. NASA climate scientist James Hansen even argued that an increase in the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet could cause ocean currents to shut down, which could cause an acceleration in melting due to the trapped warm waters underneath the glaciers.
But a recent 2015 NASA study made some shocking claims about global warming and climate change in relation to the sea levels. It turns out the Antarctic ice sheet has been growing even though a 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report “concluded that the Antarctic ice sheet has lost an alarming amount of mass with little or no gain.”
In addition, Jay Zwally, a glaciologist with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, claimed it’s possible the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet is not responsible for the sea level rising.
“The good news is that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise, but is taking 0.23 millimeters per year away,” Zwally said. “But this is also bad news. If the 0.27 millimeters per year of sea level rise attributed to Antarctica in the IPCC report is not really coming from Antarctica, there must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for.”
NASA is currently working on a new satellite system called the ICESat-2, which will be capable of measuring the ice sheets on glaciers with much greater accuracy. In regard to the study on the Zachariae Isstrom glacier, NASA also launched a new six-year field campaign called Oceans Melting Greenland, which will examine the ocean in order to determine what is affecting Greenland’s ice sheet.
[Photo via NASA/USGS]