Since 1995 the ice sheet lost an average of 265 cubic kilometers per year, which has contributed to about 0.7 millimeters per year in global sea level rise.
The sea level rise could be up to twice this contibuting amount, because the quantity does not include thermal expansion of the ice volume in response to heat.
The Greenland ice sheet has been of considerable interest to researchers over the last few years as one of the major indicators of climate change. In late 2000/early 2001 and in 2007, major glacier calving events sent up to 44 square miles of ice into the sea at a time.
Researchers are studying these major events as well as the less dramatic ongoing melting of the ice sheet through runoff and surface processes.
Ice melt from a warming Arctic has two major effects on the ocean. Increased water contributes to global sea-level rise, which affects coastlines across the globe.
And fresh water from melting ice changes the salinity of the world’s oceans, which can affect ocean ecosystems and deep water mixing.
“Increasing sea level rise will be a problem in the future for people living in coastal regions around the globe,” said Mernild. “Even a small sea level rise can be a problem for these communities.”