One of Greenland's largest glaciers is melting faster than expected, and scientists are raising concerns about how it could impact sea levels.
The Petermann Glacier could reflect a trend among other crucial ice masses in Antarctica and the Arctic as it melts at faster rates. According to a new study in PNAS, sea levels could rise to “potentially double” than previously expected.
“You have this constant flushing of seawater going many kilometers below the glacier and melting the ice,” Eric Rignot, an author of the study and glaciologist at the University of California at Irvine, told The Washington Post. “We think that could change sea level projections quite a bit. ... Probably a lot of other glaciers are in that situation, with tidal flushing."
Located in Greenland, Petermann still has not lost as much ice as the surrounding glaciers -- what concerns researchers is how the glacier went from a stable condition to losing billions of tons of ice over the past few decades. Petermann lost one third of its shelf between 2010 and 2012, and has not since recovered. In fact, the report found that it is losing approximately one kilometer per year.
"Warming of the ocean waters surrounding Greenland plays a major role in driving glacier retreat and the contribution of glaciers to sea level rise," the report states.
Melting ice has proven to be a result of human-caused climate change, as glaciers such as Petermann melting are thought to be the next major consequence of greenhouse gas emissions. If it were to melt entirely, sea levels would rise by one foot globally.
"The glacier configuration of Petermann is not unique to Greenland," the report continues. "It may be representative of many other glaciers terminating into an ice shelf in other parts of Greenland and to glaciers and ice shelves in Antarctica."