Do melting glaciers cause sea level rise?

By Laurel Brown, Nicole Rosenberger, and Maeve Hally 


In fact, sea levels are rising at a rate of an eighth of an inch per year. Land ice melts, and then flows into sea water. Melting of the glaciers/land ice is causing the sea level to rise, along with the ocean temperature, creating a chain reaction between them. The chain reaction will continue to happen, and the rate of glacial melting and sea level rise will increase. 

Origin and Prevalence

It is indeed true that the Antarctic ice shelves are melting, but that is not what is causing the sea level to rise. The land ice sheets are causing the sea level to rise. People are confused between the land ice sheet and ice shelves causing the sea level to rise without knowing the difference from the two. This is causing people to question whether the glacial melting is the root of sea level rise because they are unaware of the differences between different types of ice that is melting. Others have been questioning sea level rise because recently some glaciers have been growing.  

The photo above shows before and after pictures of a glacier over the span of a year. The photo is from the documentary Chasing Ice, by James Balog. 

Issues and Analysis 

 The global melt rate has been moving upward since the mid-1970s. At first the ocean started to rise at a very slow pace but now the sea level is continuing to rise at a rate of one-eighth of an inch per year. By having more ocean water, flooding is estimated to be from 300 percent to 900 percent more frequent within U.S. coastal communities than it was just fifty years ago. Worldwide, most glaciers are shrinking or disappearing altogether. There have been recent cases that have shown that some glaciers have been growing. Ice sheets form domes that spread out from the middle in all different paths. As ice sheets spread, they cover every little thing around them with heavy blanket of snow. Another important aspect to sea level rising is thermal expansion. Thermal expansion is a key part of the sea level rising because as the planet gets warmer the water molecules will expand, and as the ocean continues to move upward in temperature. Melting ice can change the saltiness of the ocean when mixed with freshwater, this can also change the currents and the water temperature causing the ocean to become warmer which leads to climate change. 

Melting ice sheets contribute to rising sea levels. As ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland melt, they raise the level of the ocean”   

National Geographic 

Melting ice on land and melting ice on sea are two different warnings about sea level rise. Icebergs are not what is causing the sea level to rise. It is land ice sheets that is causing the sea level to rise. Melting ice on land displaces the water in the ocean and causes the seas level to rise.  Also, as land ice melts it causes the meltwater streams to fall into the seawater. Meltwater streams are caused from the melting of land ice. With streams being formed from the melting ice, there is opportunity for more water to go into the ocean. This will slowly cause a sea level rise in the ocean as well as a temperature rise. There is a major glacier growing in Greenland. It has been increasing for the past three years now, and scientists predict that this will end up cooling the waters down. With the growing glacier this helps the warming ocean become cooler. It can slow down the process of the oceans becoming warmer. NBC news also did a story about the glaciers in Greenland. The glacier has been growing at the same rate for the past two years which is a positive sign for the ocean cooling off.