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Environment & Science

What Greenland's rapid melting means for Southern CA




A new study suggests the Greenland Ice Sheet did not fully melt during previous periods of global warming and that it preserved a tundra beneath it.
A new study suggests the Greenland Ice Sheet did not fully melt during previous periods of global warming and that it preserved a tundra beneath it.
Joshua Brown/ University of Vermont
A new study suggests the Greenland Ice Sheet did not fully melt during previous periods of global warming and that it preserved a tundra beneath it.
NARSAQ, GREENLAND - JULY 30: Icebergs are seen floating in the water on July 30, 2013 in Narsaq, Greenland. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what they’ve always done: adapt. "We’re used to change,’’ said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. "We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, we’ll just get more land.” (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A new study suggests the Greenland Ice Sheet did not fully melt during previous periods of global warming and that it preserved a tundra beneath it.
A melt water lake seen under a glacier on September 03, 2007, East of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
A new study suggests the Greenland Ice Sheet did not fully melt during previous periods of global warming and that it preserved a tundra beneath it.
An aerial view of the Greenlandic Icecap, august 28, 2007 near Ilulissat, Greenland. Scientists believe that Greenland, with its melting ice caps and disappearing glaciers, is an accurate thermometer of global warming.
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images


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When it comes to global warming, some of the most dramatic images come from Greenland, where melting glaciers are breaking apart and sending rivers of water into the ocean.

Greenland's ice sheets are receding at least twice as fast at at any time in the past 9,500 years, according to a new study from Columbia University's Earth Institute.

The changes taking place could have big impacts for sea level rise and coastal cities, including those along the California coast.

"What happens in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica affect all of us all around the world," said Laurence Smith, chair of Geography at UCLA and author of 'The World in 2050.' "These ice sheets are losing mass to the ocean, which raises sea level."

Smith led a research team to Greenland this summer as part of an ongoing study to compare on-the-ground conditions to computer modelling and satellite images of the area.

"To my knowledge, we collected the first-ever direct measurements of melt water runoff flowing off the surface of the ice sheet," said Smith.

The bottom line?

"If Greenland were to somehow disappear right now, it would not reform," said Smith. And that is worth paying attention to, he said.

RELATED: How Hermosa Beach is bracing for sea level rise