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Greenland no longer has to worry about rising sea levels

In an era where rising sea levels present a global concern, Greenland’s unique situation provides a contrasting narrative.

Recent research conducted by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) has unveiled a remarkable phenomenon.

Greenland‘s bedrock is not only rising, it’s doing so at an accelerated pace, with an increase of up to 20 cm over the last decade (2013-2023).

This translates to an estimated uplift of 2 meters per century, a rate that far exceeds Greenland’s current sea level rise.

Science, sea levels, and Greenland’s uplift

This significant land uplift, as observed by the research team led by Danjal Longfors Berg, a Ph.D. student at DTU Space, is driven by the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet.

As the ice melts, it alleviates the pressure on the bedrock beneath, allowing the land to rise.

Berg explains, “These are quite significant land uplifts that we can now demonstrate. They indicate that local changes in Greenland are happening very rapidly, impacting life in Greenland.”

This uplift not only influences the local ecosystem but also alters Greenland’s physical map, leading to the emergence of new landforms such as small islands and skerries.

GNET: Precisely monitoring Greenland sea levels

The study leverages data from GNET — a network of 61 measurement stations scattered along Greenland’s coasts.

GNET serves as a critical infrastructure for monitoring ice melt and land uplift with millimeter precision, thanks to GNSS technology, including the GPS system.

Morten Hvidberg, the Vice Director of the Agency for Data Supply and Infrastructure, highlights GNET’s role.

“GNET is a fundamental geodetic infrastructure, providing data to measure ice melting and land uplift. GNET enables researchers, including those at DTU Space, to precisely monitor climate changes,” explained Hvidberg.

Global warming’s role in this phenomenon

The phenomenon of land uplift in Greenland is not solely a consequence of the post-ice age recovery process.

The landmass was compressed under the weight of a thick ice sheet during the last ice age, and although the ice age concluded approximately 12,000 years ago, the land continues to rise as it rebounds from the loss of ice.

However, the recent acceleration in uplift rates along Greenland’s coast over the past two decades is attributed to the increased melting of the ice sheet, a direct impact of global warming.

“The land uplift we observe in Greenland these years cannot be solely explained by the natural post-ice age development,” emphasized Professor Shfaqat Abbas Khan, a co-author of the study.

“Greenland is rising significantly more. With our data from GNET, we can precisely isolate the part of land uplift caused by the current global climate changes,” he concluded.

Humbling reminder of climate change complexity

This fascinating research conducted by DTU uncovered surprising data on Greenland’s unique geological response to climate change, documenting a significant uplift of the bedrock attributed to the melting of the ice sheet.

This phenomenon, which contrasts with the global trend of rising sea levels, underscores the intricate and localized impacts of climate change, challenging our understanding of its global effects.

By leveraging precise data from the GNET network, the study provides invaluable insights into the rapid changes occurring in Greenland, while emphasizing the critical role of advanced monitoring technologies in deciphering the multifaceted nature of environmental changes.

As Greenland continues uplifting above rising sea levels, this research serves as a crucial reminder of the need for continued observation and study to fully grasp the complex dynamics of our changing planet.

The full study was recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.


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