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UO researcher to study trickle-down effect of melting Greenland glaciers

The melting glaciers of Greenland have become an icon for climate change. A researcher at the University of Oregon is studying the trickle-down effects of the melt.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Scientists agree that Greenland's ice is melting at an accelerated rate, and the phenomenon often makes news headlines as a prime example of the effects of climate change.

The massive glaciers are melting, causing sea levels to rise. But while a rising sea level is often the most talked-about impact, it's not the only one.

"It also has real implications for the people living in Greenland," said Mark Carey, director of the Environmental Studies program at the University of Oregon and the Glacier Lab.

Carey and a team of researchers were just awarded a nearly $3 million grant to get a better understanding of those additional impacts, one of which comes as a result of increased tourism in Greenland.

"There's this 'last-chance tourism,' I want to go see the ice before it disappears or glaciers are a new icon of climate change, so I want to go and see those," Carey said.

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In recent years tourists began flocking to the small communities to get a glimpse of the disappearing ice.

And that, like rising sea levels, has impacts on the environment and on the residents.

"Some of those are helpful, people get new jobs. Some of those are detrimental in terms of changing customs, bringing new people in, cruise ships landing, and altering what a small town of 600 people was like," Carey explained.

And for those small communities that often rely on fishing, changing ocean temperatures and circulation due to the melting ice makes it even tougher.

"It also might have impacts on the global economy in terms of fish availability elsewhere," Carey said.

Those are just a few examples of the kinds of changes that will arrive as the ice melts.

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Along with the ice-sheets, researchers expect much more will disappear as the climate rapidly warms. Understanding now what those changes will help everyone prepare for them, and even counter them, in the future.

"We know that there are changes that are occurring," said Carey. "We're going to investigate and see what exactly those are."