Greenland Is Getting Taller

As the world’s ice sheets melt, Greenland is getting taller in a process known as glacial isostatic rebound. Live Science describes this gradual rise of the country’s landmass as something like a “decompressing mattress.” While the weight of the ice sheet lessens over time (much like it did at the end of the last ice age 11,700 years ago), the land’s bedrock begins to expand upward. A new study published in Geophysical Research Letters says that up to one third of land’s uplift in some areas is due to glaciers receding.

“The maximum land uplift is where you have the most mass loss, and that’s closest to the biggest glaciers in Greenland,” says lead author Danjal Longfors Berg. He and his cohorts used data from the 58 GPS monitors embedded into Greenland’s bedrock in 2007 that measure the land’s “vertical motion.” Some of its rise was due to natural rebound, but in two separate drainage basins in the north and east, 32% and 27.9% of the rebound was caused by ice loss. Bedrock was rising fastest—.3 inches per year—in southeast Greenland at the Kangerlussuaq Glacier, which has receded 6.2 miles since 1900.

“When we estimate how much mass it’s losing, then we can give a better estimate of how much the sea level is rising,” says Berg. The New York Times, meanwhile, reports that Greenland’s glaciers are melting faster than we knew. A new study published in Nature suggests 20% more ice has melted along the edges of the country’s glaciers than was previously estimated. “Almost every glacier in Greenland is retreating. And that story is true no matter where you look,” glaciologist Chad Greene tells the Times. “This retreat is happening everywhere and all at once.” (More Greenland stories.)


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