A disturbing story about recent scientific findings in Greenland and Antarctica: As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas.
TASIILAQ, Greenland — With a tense pilot gripping the stick, the helicopter hovered above the water, a red speck of machinery lost in a wilderness of rock and ice.
To the right, a great fjord stretched toward the sea, choked with icebergs. To the left loomed one of the immense glaciers that bring ice from the top of the Greenland ice sheet and dump it into the ocean.
Hanging out the sides of the craft, two scientists sent a measuring device plunging into the water, between ice floes. Near the bottom, it reported a temperature of 40 degrees. It was the latest in a string of troubling measurements showing that the water was warm enough to melt glaciers rapidly from below.
“That’s the highest we’ve seen this far up the fjord,” said one of the scientists, Fiammetta Straneo.
The temperature reading was a new scrap of information in the effort to answer one of the most urgent — and most widely debated — questions facing humanity: How fast is the world’s ice going to melt?
The answer to the question seems to be: a lot faster than previously thought possible.
As a result of recent calculations that take the changes into account, many scientists now say that sea level is likely to rise perhaps three feet by 2100 — an increase that, should it come to pass, would pose a threat to coastal regions the world over.
And the calculations suggest that the rise could conceivably exceed six feet, which would put thousands of square miles of the American coastline under water and would probably displace tens of millions of people in Asia.
The scientists say that a rise of even three feet would inundate low-lying lands in many countries, rendering some areas uninhabitable. It would cause coastal flooding of the sort that now happens once or twice a century to occur every few years. It would cause much faster erosion of beaches, barrier islands and marshes. It would contaminate fresh water supplies with salt.
In the United States, parts of the East Coast and Gulf Coast would be hit hard. In New York, coastal flooding could become routine, with large parts of Queens and Brooklyn especially vulnerable. About 15 percent of the urbanized land in the Miami region could be inundated. The ocean could encroach more than a mile inland in parts of North Carolina.
Abroad, some of the world’s great cities — London, Cairo, Bangkok, Venice and Shanghai among them — would be critically endangered by a three-foot rise in the sea.
Read the whole article… and also check out the accompanying slideshow.