As reported in the Wall Street Journal, of all places, a summary of an article in Nature Geoscience.
Accelerated melting of polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers was the driving factor behind a rise in the global sea level of 16.8 millimeters, or about two-thirds of an inch, between 2005 and 2011, according to a study published Sunday in Nature Geoscience.
Scientists want to establish how much of the sea-level change relates to increased melt water, and how much relates to the water expanding as it warms up. Previous calculations indicated that melting might contribute about half of the increase. The latest study concludes that for the period 2005-2011 the contribution was closer to 75%.
“There was an increase in the melting rate in Greenland starting in 2005 and that is probably the underlying story why” a larger quantity of melt water has poured into the oceans in recent years, said Clark R. Wilson, geophysicist at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the study.
The hidden effect of massive ice melt is to ameliorate global warming, just like ice in your drink keeps it from getting warm. As long as the ice lasts, that is. It absorbs heat during melting, to the tune of 80 calories/gram (this is termed the heat of fusion). Now, if you do some math in order to multiply that number times the number of grams of ice melted around the world in a year, it comes out to a very very large number. So large, in fact, that the number of calories of energy absorbed by melting ice is essentially equal to the total of amount of energy used annually in the entire world.
Think of it this way. The melting ice of the world is acting in some ways like a giant air conditioner that was using all of the energy used in the world to try and keep us cool. However, once the ice begins to run out, the cooling effect will decrease.