Greenland's snow-laden hills are slowly giving way to sand-covered beaches

There's a visible rise in sedimentation near the island’s southwest & northeastern coastline.

We've all heard it — glaciers are melting, and more quickly with each passing year because of climate change. But there's a tiny island of good news in the sea of bad linked to melting ice and climate change: more sand.

Sand is an important and underrated resource in the world. Apart from being one of the best ingredients of beach day fun, sand is also important in a world with rising sea levels — to prevent coasts from going under.

A new perspective points out an unexpected effect of climate change — more ice loss means more sand. Greenland, where this odd effect was first studied and reported on (in Nature in 2017), could end up being a sand supplier to countries nearby, according to an Earther report.

Melting ice in Greenland has been higher than it has ever been in recent years. Image credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Melting ice in Greenland has been higher than it has ever been in recent years. Image credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

The study was rehashed in a perspective written by the study's authors in Nature Sustainability this week after they noticed Greenland's growing coastlines. A few calculations and simulations later, the authors realized that the sandy deltas being formed off the coast are directly related to ice loss in Greenland.

The melting ice is flowing down as rivers and carrying sediments towards the sea. The sand being dropped off at Greenland’s coasts each year has a market value of more than half of the government’s $2.22 billion gross domestic product (as of 2015), a press release said.

The researchers aren't certain of how much sand could actually be washed down from future melting, but it is expected to rise as the ice sheet continues to melt. There's a visible rise in sedimentation near the island’s southwest and northeastern coastline.

As good as selling soil could do for the Greenland economy, the country could also be looking at economic threats such as the loss of fishing and mining jobs. Sure, mining sand could help diversify jobs in the country, but the giant island is home to fewer than 56,000 people — a population that is also shrinking.

Sediment plumes off Greenland coast seen from a satellite. Image courtesy: NASA/EOS

Sediment plumes off Greenland coast as seen from a NASA EOS satellite. Image courtesy: NASA/GSFC

If only it wasn’t contributing to sea level rise as well, more sand would be good news and good news alone. Sand can help rebuild after natural disasters, and repair erosion along the coastlines from sea level changes. Sand is also naturally rich in minerals and silica which are ever-in-demand in construction and numerous industries.

The study's findings are now with policymakers who will take a call on what the best course of action would be, keeping both economy and environment in mind.

It looks like Greenland has some tough problems to address, but beaches sure ain't one of them.

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