Greenland-22484

A satellite image of western Greenland from NASA's MODIS satellite. The narrow grey band in the centre of the image is melting ice, between the rocky coast to the left (west) and thicker, non-melting, higher altitude ice to the right (east). ((NASA))

Greenland's ice is melting at such a rapid pace that the land beneath it is rising up, say U.S. researchers.

The dense, two-kilometre thick icecap that covers Greenland suppresses the land, keeping its elevation in check, researchers at the University of Miami write in a new study. However, it is melting so quickly that the island's coastal areas are rising at a rate of one inch per year.

The scientists predict that by 2025, that rate could be two inches a year.

"What's surprising, and a bit worrisome, is that the ice is melting so fast that we can actually see the land uplift in response," said the study's principal investigator, Tim Dixon, professor of geophysics at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), in a news release.

"Even more surprising, the rise seems to be accelerating, implying that melting is accelerating."

To determine the rise of the land, the researchers used a global positioning system (GPS) on the shores of Greenland to determine the precise increases in the rise of a variety of coastal areas since 1995.

The GPS determined that the increases in land elevation began in the mid-1990s.

"Greenland's ice melt is very important because it has a big impact on global sea level rise," said study co-author Yan Jiang, a PhD candidate at RSMAS.

Yiang said that Greenland could soon become the biggest factor in a rise in sea levels around the world.

The study is published in the May 16 issue of Nature Geoscience.