Greenland Glaciers Melting Faster Than Expected: UCI Glacologist Eric Rignot

Glacologist Eric Rignot of UCI is interviewed in December in San Francisco.EXPAND
Glacologist Eric Rignot of UCI is interviewed in December in San Francisco.
American Geophysical Union

Research by a UC Irvine professor who worked on an international research project with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena shows glaciers in Greenland are melting much faster than previously thought due to climate change.

The findings from UCI Earth System Science professor Eric Rignot and co-author Ian Fenty of JPL were published in Geophysical Research Letters last month. Rignot and Fenty are part of NASA's five-year Oceans Melting Greenland field campaign. Rignot and colleagues from UCI and JPL two years ago warned about the rate of melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica.

Greenhouse gases are heating the glaciers from above, which was expected, but the pollution also is warming the ocean floors to a degree that was worse than expected, Rignot told City News Service last week.

Left unchecked, this could lead to the flooding of many coastal cities, such as in Miami or Louisiana, by the middle of the century, Rignot said.

"In Miami they're already dealing with this," he noted. "The city of Miami Beach installed water pumps everywhere in the city to pump water out, which was supposed to be used during high tide, but now they're using them almost all the time."

There is some hope. More comprehensive data than what was available before is leading to more precise projections on what ice is going to do in coming decades, said Rignot, who added if "we act quickly," the flooding problem could be "spread out over the next few centuries, which is a lot easier to deal with."

One such way to act quickly is to make a major push toward clean-energy development, which Rignot claims "is not going to be painful. It will create jobs, invigorate the economy and be better for air quality,
pollution and all things. The only negative is the oil industry will have to shift to a different line of business, but they have the money and good people to adapt. They just have to accept it."

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