Water from Melting Greenland Ice Sheath May Impact Northeast US Coast

Water from Melting Greenland Ice Sheath May Impact Northeast US Coast

New research by the National Center for Atmospheric Research points to the possibility that water from the melting Greenland Ice Sheath could change oceanic circulation in the North Atlantic, in a way that would raise sea levels off the Northeast by about eight inches more than the average global sea level rise that is expected with global warming.

Results of the study are being published this week in Geophysical Research Letters. They suggest that moderate to high rates of ice melt from Greenland may shift ocean circulation by about 2100, causing sea levels off the northeast coast of North America to rise by about 30 to 51 centimeters (12 to 20 inches) more than other coastal areas.

The research builds on recent reports that have found that sea level rise could adversely affect North America, and its findings suggest that the situation is even more urgent than previously believed.

“If the Greenland melt continues to accelerate, we could see significant impacts this century on the northeast U.S. coast from the resulting sea level rise,” says scientist Aixue Hu, the paper’s lead author. Hu is at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo. “Major northeastern cities are directly in the path of the greatest rise.”

To assess the impact of Greenland ice melt on ocean circulation, Hu and his coauthors used the Community Climate System Model, an NCAR-based computer model that simulates global climate.

They considered three scenarios: the melt rate continuing to increase by 7 percent a year, as has been the case in recent years, or the melt rate slowing down to an increase of either 1 or 3 percent a year.

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