The Earth’s crust under Iceland is ‘rebounding’ as climate change leads to the ice caps on the island melting, according to research conducted by the University of Arizona.
The paper argues that the “current fast uplift” of the Icelandic crust is a result of accelerated melting of the island’s glaciers and coincides with warming that began around three decades ago. The scientists add that some sites in Iceland are moving upward by as much as 1.4 inches each year.
Co-author of the paper, which is set to be published in journal Geophysical Research Letters, Richard Bennett, a associate professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona, explained that geologists have long known that as glaciers melt and become lighter, the Earth rebounds.
However, whether the current rebound detected is related to past melting or modern ice loss has been in question. Bennett said, “Iceland is the first place we can say accelerated uplift means accelerated ice mass loss. What we’re observing [in Iceland] is a climatically induced change in the Earth’s surface.”
The research team used a network of 62 global positioning satellite receivers fastened to rocks throughout Iceland to measure movement. They found that the fastest uplift was the region between several large ice caps, and the pace of uplift slowed the further the receivers were from the ice cap region.
Other research measuring ice loss noted an uptick in the rate of melting ice since 1995, with temperature records showing increases since 1980. Using models of ice loss also suggested that glaciers had to be melting faster and faster to cause the uplift.
Author of the study Kathleen Compton, a University of Arizona geosciences doctoral candidate, added, “There’s no way to explain that accelerated uplift unless the glacier is disappearing at an accelerated rate. Our hope is we can use the current GPS measurements of uplift to more easily quantify ice loss.”
Photo: Börkur Sigurbjörnsson via Flickr