Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Calculated sea surface rise from total Greenland melt

  1. Dec 22, 2007 #1
    What might be the calculated sea surface rise from a total Greenland melt? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_level_rise" [Broken]
    Volume of ice in km^3 /surface area ocean km^2 = rise in km. S.A. of earth is 510 x 10^6 km^2. ocean is 71% of S.A., or 361 x 10^6 km^2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth" [Broken] But wouldn't one also have to consider caveat of part of melt occupying Greenland basin, leaving an archipelago?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 22, 2007 #2
    Only the grounded ice that melts will cause sea level change. Floating ice displaces its own weight in water anyway, so if it melts sea level won't change -- basic physics.
  4. Dec 22, 2007 #3
    Actually the floating ice that melts will lower (albeit it miniscule) the sea level. Remember frozen water expands by 9%.
  5. Dec 22, 2007 #4
    it's about grounded ice but without isostacy assumptions, since the loss of ice will cause uplift in Greenland compensated with subsidence in the oceans, which tends to reduce the sea level rise eventually.

    But the Greenland ice survived much warmer periods then now, the Hoocene Thermal Optimum for instance from about 9000-6000 years ago, 3000 years of 2-4 degrees higher temperatures. The ice sheet can handle that.
  6. Dec 22, 2007 #5
    No binzing, the water level would not change if floating ice were to melt, at least i t won't if Archimedes was right. One other minor complication though, the gravitational pull of an ice sheet actually causes the sea to bulge slightly around it, without the ice sheet this bulge wouldn't be present causing local sea level to be slightly lower than it otherwise would have been within the vicinity of the ice sheet. The glacial rebound would also make sea level lower (relative to a fixed marker) in the vicinity - but due to mass balance the sea level would be higher elsewhere around the world to compensate.
  7. Dec 22, 2007 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Andre, can you explain this in layman terms? I'm not sure I follow. Also, what would be the typical timescale for uplift and subsidence?
  8. Dec 23, 2007 #7
    This effect is what is called isostacy. Perhaps, http://gemini.oscs.montana.edu/~geol445/hyperglac/isostasy1/ [Broken] will be helpful, which also covers the rate of changes.

    But not shown in the animation is that the increased sea level exerts slightly more pressure on the ocean floors and that the total uplifted mass below the former ice sheet should be balanced out by an equal mass subsiding elsewhere. Assuming balancing pressures in the upper mantle or asthenosphere to be about equal everywhere, for this balancing, the now heavier oceans are a logical candidate, this is called http://gemini.oscs.montana.edu/~geol445/hyperglac/glossary.htm#hydroisostasy [Broken].
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  9. Dec 23, 2007 #8
    Caltech seem to be doing some interesting theoretical geophysical assessments of glacial rebound.

    http://www.gps.caltech.edu/~jtromp/research/glacial.html [Broken]

    A spherical harmonic analysis of the geogravitational field could theoretically be used to monitor the behaviour of ice sheets and tectonic plates.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  10. Dec 23, 2007 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Actually, we had a thread discussing this some time ago, and it turns out that the melting of floating ice would cause some rise in sea levels, albeit very slight. Floating ice is fresh water floating on saltwater. As the ice melts, the seas become slightly less salty. Less salty means less dense, but the mass of the sea remains the same. So, same mass at less density means greater volume. But I have no idea how large this effect would be; probably engligable.

    Just threw it in because I think it's interesting!
  11. Dec 24, 2007 #10
    Fair point, it is certainly a worthwhile consideration and another complication. Although it turns out that the melted ice shelf water is more dense than the saline water in which it floats - this is because it is much colder - so I have some trouble agreeing with your conclusion.
  12. Dec 24, 2007 #11


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    More dense than seawater? Does ice-shelf water sink in saltwater?
  13. Dec 25, 2007 #12
    Yes, well sometimes at least, it is probably how North Atlantic Deep Water is formed. Note that ice under a heavy load has a lower melting point than ice under typical pressures (water having a negative Clapeyron slope - at least under "normal" conditions), meaning that it can melt at temperatures below zero degrees C. So ice that melts under a thick wedge of ice (like at the bottom of an ice shelf) can be very cold and therefore the water will be very dense, ice that melts under less pressurized conditions, for example from an iceberg probably will be a bit warmer so will probably float.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook