May 27, 2009

Ice melting more threatening than believed

Scientists say the ongoing melting of the Greenland ice sheet might drive more water than previously thought toward the U.S. and Canadian coastlines.

Scientists led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research said if Greenland's ice melts at a moderate to high rate, ocean circulation by 2100 could shift, raising sea levels at New York, Boston, Halifax and other cities in the northeastern United States and Canada about 12-20 inches more than in other coastal areas.

The research builds on recent reports that found that sea level rise associated with global warming could adversely affect North America, and its findings suggest that the situation is more threatening 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, NCAR scientist Aixue Hu, the lead author, said. Major northeastern cities are directly in the path of the greatest rise.

The new research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and by the National Science Foundation. It was conducted by scientists at NCAR, the University of Colorado-Boulder and Florida State University.

The study will be published Friday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.