Home / Science / The melting of Greenland will raise sea levels … but it will also give us sand

The melting of Greenland will raise sea levels … but it will also give us sand

About 8 percent of the annual contribution of sediment delivered to the global oceans comes from the Greenland ice sheet.
Image: Nicolaj Kroeg Larsen

Greenland is melting rapidly. The fault is climate change. This is not good news, but a new article points to an unexpected benefit as a result of all this lost ice: the sand.

The world needs sand, in part, to prepare for sea level rise and strengthen coasts, and Greenland could play an important role in its supply. This document, which is not a study but a perspective in the journal Nature Sustainability, is the result of a separate study that the authors published in 2017 after they realized that parts of The coastline of this semi-autonomous Danish territory grew. After collecting information on the molten ice layer in models, the team realized that the growth of the river's sandy deltas was directly related to the loss of ice.

"We saw this and we feel we should share this knowledge with policymakers," lead author Mette Bendixen, a researcher at the University of Colorado at the Arctic and Alpine Research Institute in Boulder, told Earther. "It's up to Greenland to find out if this [sand resource] It's something they want to pursue. "

The Greenland ice sheet has been losing approximately 269 billion tons of ice each year since 2002. This has resulted in the accumulation of sand in the the island Coasts because as the ice melts, it flows through the rivers and transports sediments to the sea. The sand delivered to the coasts of Greenland every year has a market value equivalent to more than half of the government's gross domestic product, which was approximately $ 2,220 million in 2015, according to this press release.

"The world needs sand, and you have a lot more sand here."

The document does not say how much more sand could result from further melting in the future, but the amount is expected to increase as the ice sheet continues to melt. There are currently an abundance of sedimentation that occurs on the southwest coast of the island, in particular, and along the northeast coast.

Nor does the document make an adequate economic analysis to see if any economic boom in a sand industry, in the form of jobs and exports of sand, will counteract the negative economic results that will hit Greenland due to climate change. Instead, the authors wanted to pose the question so that the Greenland government could examine it more closely.

"It's as if we were passing this idea on to policy makers," Bendixen said.

Climate change is here, and people in the Arctic are already feeling its impacts. Greenland's economy is currently based on fishing and mining. The mining arena could also help diversify its revenue streams, argues the document. The giant island has a small population with just over 56,000 people who call it their home, and that population, which is largely indigenous, is shrinking.

"We believe that the population of Greenland actually has excellent skills for this industry," Bendixen told Earther.

However, diving into the world of sand will require some important analysis of the environment. This is still a form of resource extraction and mining, and in an area of ​​the Arctic that has largely remained untouched. Removing sediment from the water could further disperse it, damaging local ecosystems.

If Greenland decides to embark on this sand journey, its sediments may end up on the beaches destroyed by the hurricanes. Superstorm Sandy left the beaches of Coney Island devastated, and officials needed more than 2 million cubic meters of sand to rebuild, according to the newspaper.

Beyond the coasts, sand and gravel are also directed towards the filling of roads and railways. In fact, these are the most extracted substances in the world, with the 40 billion tons extracted every year that represent approximately twice as much as those transported by rivers around the world.

"The world needs sand, and you have a lot more sand here," Bendixen told Earther.

The Greenland sand may be the key to helping rebuild as natural disasters and rising sea levels erode the coasts. Now, if only it does not contribute to the problem of sea level rise.

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