A system that measures water melt shows the Bering Glacier, the largest glacier in North America, is melting at double the rate scientists thought.
The glacier is releasing approximately 30 cubic kilometers of water a year—more than twice the amount of water in the entire Colorado River, says Robert Shuchman, PhD, codirector of the Michigan Tech Research Institute in Ann Arbor.
“This could potentially change the circulation of coastal currents in the Gulf of Alaska,” he says.
These currents are key factors in tempering climate, redistributing nutrients in the water, and providing adequate food for salmon and marine animals, he explains.
As glaciers melt, sea levels rise—and “sea-level rise affects everyone,” says Dr. Shuchman, whose team has studied the glacier for the last decade. “If it continues to rise at this rate, parts of the state of Florida could be under water at the turn of the next century.”
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Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Research Institute