Greenland is melting fast. Blame on climate change. This is not a good news, but a new paper points to an unexpected advantage as a result of all this lost ice: sand.
The world needs in part, preparing for rising sea levels and strengthening the coast and greenland could play an important role in delivering it. This paper, which is not a study but rather a perspective in the journal Nature Sustainability, is the result of a separate study published by the authors in 2017 after they realized that parts of this semi-autonomous Danish territory's coastline grew. After running information on the ice sheet melted into the models, the team realized that the growth of sandy river delta was directly related to the ice loss.
"We saw this and felt we had to share this knowledge with the politicians," says senior author Mette Bendixen, a researcher at the University of Colorado at the Boulder Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, to Earther. "It is up to Greenland to see if this [sand resource] is something they want to pursue."
Greenland's ice has lost an estimated 269 billion tonnes of ice every year since 2002. This has resulted in sand building on the island's coast, because as the ice melts, it flows through rivers and carries sediment towards the sea. The sand delivered to Greenland's coast each year has a market value equivalent to more than half of the government's gross domestic product, which was about $ 2.22 billion in 2015, by this press release.
"The world needs sand and you have so much more sand here."
The paper does not say how much more sand can be due to further melting in the future, but the amount is expected to increase as the ice continues to melt. There is at present an abundance of sedimentation on the island's southwest coast, especially and along the northeastern coast.
The paper also does not make a real economic analysis to see if any economic boom from a sand industry – in the form of jobs and sand exports – will counteract the negative economic results that will hit Greenland from climate change. Instead, the authors wanted to address the issue so that the Greenlandic government can take a closer look.
"It is typical that we hand over this idea to politicians," says Bendixen.
Climate change is here, and people in the Arctic already know their consequences. Greenland's economy today relies heavily on fishing and mining. Miningsand can also help diversify its revenue, the paper says. The gigantic island has a small population with just over 56,000 people calling home – and the population that is largely domestic, shrinks.
"We believe that the green population actually has excellent skills for this industry" Bendixen told Earther.
Diving in the sand world, however, requires some important environmental analyzes. This is still a form of resource extraction and mining – and in an area of the Arctic that has largely been left untouched. Removal of sediment from the water can further spread it, which damages local ecosystems.
If Greenland decides to enter this sandy journey, its sediment may end up on beaches destroyed by hurricanes. Superstorm Sandy left Coney Island beaches destroyed, and officials needed more than 2 million cubic meters of sand to rebuild, per paper.
In addition to the coasts, sand and gravel also go against road and railway filling. In fact, they are the most mined in the world, where the 40 billion tonnes extracted each year amount to about twice as much as the world's rivers.
"The world needs sand, and you have so much more sand here," Bendixen told Earther.
Greenland's sand can be the key to helping to rebuild as natural disasters and rising sea levels erode coastlines. Now if it just didn't contribute to sea level problems.