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Unprecedented study quantifies sea level rise due to land ice melt

NASA Alaska Glacial Melt

A new study published by University of Colorado at Boulder scientists has utilized NASA satellite data to accurately estimate sea level rise due to land ice melt.

Using NASA’s GRACE satellite data, researchers estimate that between 2003 and 2010 melting land ice has contributed 0.5 inches to sea level rise globally. While this may not seem like much, the 4.3 trillion tons of ice that was melted would be enough to cover the United States in 1.5 feet of ice. This is about 1,000 cubic miles of ice!

In order to measure the small changes in land ice, NASA’s GRACE satellites record minute changes in Earth’s gravitational pull caused by the movement of water.

Improved estimates of land ice melt are a crucial piece to the sea level rise puzzle and improve our understanding of the complex interactions between the atmosphere, ice, and ocean.

Full story at NASA News and Features. Track our melting glaciers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center or with the Global Ice Viewer.

Worried about our rising seas?


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  • Snow leopard

    I wonder, doesn’t the land ice melting contribute to rise of the level of land itself, as observed for instance in Sweden?

  • Yeah, as the weight of the ice is removed the depressed crust beneath rebounds upwards. It is definitely something that complicates measuring sea level rise.

    I think because the study is using the gravitational pull of the ice, it would not be influenced by the relative height of land. However, it is a very interesting aspect of ice melt.

  • frank adams

    This study should NOT reduce our concerns about global warming, even though it indicates that glaciers are melting SLOWER than we have previously projected.

    1900-2000 sea levels rose about 12 inches. It is generally agreed that we are on track to rise another 12 inches in 2000-2100. If we extrapolate from this study, it reduces that rate by about 50% t0 6.25 inches. (0.5 inches per 8 year period or 12.5 * 0.5 – Assuming they didn’t round up to 0.5)

    In other words, this article SHOULD (if we were rational, informed consumers of media) give us hope for the future of our planet. The fact that it doesn’t is a true cause for alarm.