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Study: Global Warming Is Causing Iceland To Rise Faster

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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Sea levels are rising, and so is the Scandinavian island of Iceland, according to a new study by a University of Arizona scientist.

A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters found that an acceleration in sea level rise from glacier and ice sheet melt has sped up the rate at which Iceland has risen out of the ocean. Such an uplift could cause more volcanic eruptions, according to the study.

“There have been a lot of studies that have shown that the uplift in Iceland is primarily due to ice loss,” said lead author Kathleen Compton, an Arizona PhD student, adding that her study was the first to show accelerated sea level rise influences the land.

Ice sheets and glaciers push down on the land mass below, so when ice melts the land beneath actually starts to rise up — though slowly. For example, parts of North America are still recovering from massive ice sheets covering the continent thousands of years ago.

But Iceland is rising fast, according to researchers. Climate Central notes that under Iceland “the mantle — the semi-solid layer of the Earth below the crust — is a bit goopier, and so responds more quickly to changes in the weight pressing down on it.”

Compton’s study shows that parts of Iceland are rising at 1.4 inches per year, compared to prehistoric ice loss rebounds. The study says man-made global warming is the reason why Iceland has risen so much in modern times.

Not everyone is convinced that Iceland is actually rising faster now than in the past because there is only a few decades worth of data. It would be hard to test Compton’s theory on other parts of the world because the land there responds more slowly to sea level rises.

Sea levels have been rising since the end of the last ice age, but some scientists argue that sea levels have risen faster in recent decades. Researchers from Harvard University and Rutgers University found that sea levels have risen faster in the 21st Century. Why? Because sea level rises during the 20th Century were overestimated by 30 percent.

“The acceleration over the 20th century is larger than we thought, and that’s a problem,” said Carling Hay, the study’s author.

But not all scientists have agreed with this assertion. Two recent papers show have actually shown a slight deceleration in the rate of sea level rise.

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