From Climate Central's Michael D. Lemonick:

The flow of Greenland’s glaciers toward the sea may have increased significantly in the past decade, but a new report in Nature finds that rate of increase is unlikely to continue. “The loss of ice has doubled in the past 10 years, but it’s not going to double again,” said lead author Faezeh Nick, a glaciologist at the University Centre in Svalbard, in Longyearbyen, Norway, in an interview.

That conclusion, based on a new, sophisticated computer model, makes the worst-case scenario of sea level rise — an increase of 6 feet or so, on average, by 2100 — look less likely to play out.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, in the model at least, the slowdown doesn’t necessarily bring glaciers back to their original, stately rate of flow. And since the heat-trapping gas that has already put into the atmosphere will be there for hundreds of years to come, Greenland will continue to melt indefinitely. The fact that it may not happen quite as fast as the worst-case scenarios might forecast isn’t all that reassuring.

Because even if sea level goes up by only half that much, the combination of rising seas and periodic storm surges could devastate coastal areas around the world. Scientists have concluded, based on earlier studies, that the lower figure of about 3 feet is most likely, and while that research didn’t explicitly calculate anticipated sea level rise, it appears consistent with those estimates.

Earlier studies, based on satellite observations, had also noted that Greenland’s ice flow has started to slow, which means the dumping of icebergs into the ocean should slow as well. Projecting what’s likely in the future, however, is the province not of observations but of models. In this case, Nick and a half-dozen colleagues used a new model that factors in the effects of climate change on both the air above Greenland and on the ocean below.

Those effects, Nick said, depend on the characteristics of individual glaciers. The Petermann glacier in northwest Greenland, for example — one of four the scientists modeled — “has a very long floating shelf, so it’s very sensitive to ocean warming.” As a result, the Petermann has loosed two massive “ice islands” into the sea, one in 2010 that was four times the size of Manhattan, and another, about half as big, in 2012.

But while those were major events, they didn’t affect the Petermann’s overall flow rate significantly. Other glaciers, such as the Jacobshavn, respond to warmer seas not just by letting loose big chunks of ice, but also by flowing more quickly. The reason: Jacobshavn’s ice was mostly grounded on the sea floor, not floating, creating tremendous friction that kept the upstream parts of the glacier in check. When that grounded ice is removed, it’s as though the brakes suddenly came off.

Warmer air temperatures, meanwhile, melt ice on top of the glaciers, and on the massive ice sheet they flow out of. In the summer of 2012, in fact, for the first time in more than a century, virtually the entire surface was at least partially melting for a few days in July (the reason, some scientists believe, was not just warmer-than-normal air temperatures overall, but also the heat-trapping effect of thin clouds).

Eventually, all of this water flows to the sea, but along the way it funnels down into crevasses in the ice, which can help lubricate the ice-rock interface at the bottom, letting glaciers flow faster. Downflowing water can also widen cracks in the ice, Nick said, which can enhance disintegration of the glacier’s leading edge already weakened by the warming ocean.

Feeding all of these effects into their model, the scientists found that speedup in the flow of glaciers into the sea is something to be expected in a generally warming climate, but that it won’t simply get more and more pronounced. “You see a big jump,” Nick said, “and then it slows down again.”

CORRECTION: A previous Climate Central headline incorrectly suggested the study reported current melting observations, rather than future projections.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • This Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011 photo shows a view of Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. Perito Moreno is among the most accessible large glaciers and remains relatively intact even as glaciers all over Patagonia have been retreating in the past few decades. (AP Photo/Ian James)

  • In this July 19, 2011 file photo, pools of melted ice form atop Jakobshavn Glacier, near the edge of the vast Greenland ice sheet. Greenland's glaciers are hemorrhaging ice at an increasingly faster rate, but it's not the breakneck pace scientists once feared, a new study says.. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

  • (FILES) View of the Perito Moreno glacier in southern Argentina on February 28, 2008. For the first time the glacier will rupture in winter, probably due to the climate change, Carlos Corvalan, Director of Los Glaciares National Park said on July 7, 2008. (DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • View of the south wall of the Perito Moreno glacier February 28, 2008 in the Park and National Reservation Los Glaciares, an ecotourism destination in Patagonia, Argentina, declared by the UNESCO as Natural World Heritage Site. The glacier Perito Moreno, in the province of Santa Cruz, is one of the most significant natural attractions of Argentina 30km (20 miles) long and with a total surface of 257 km2 (160 square miles). The magnitude of this mass of ice, seems to float on lake Argentino some 70 meters (230 feet) above the water surface. (DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • This May 30, 2012 image provided by Ian Joughin shows an iceberg in or just outside the Ilulissat fjord, that likely calved from Jakobshavn Isbrae, the fastest glacier in west Greenland. Polar ice sheets are now melting three times faster than in the 1990s, but so far that's added just less than half an inch to already rising global sea levels, a new giant scientific study says. While the amount of sea level rise isn't as bad as some earlier worst case scenarios, the acceleration of the melting, especially in Greenland, has ice scientists worried. (AP Photo/Ian Joughin)

  • In this picture taken Wednesday, July 27, 2011, Hindu pilgrims make their way to the Amarnath cave shrine over a glacier near Panchtarni, 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Srinagar, India. At least half a million devotees make the pilgrimage to the icy cave which lies 13,500 feet (4,115 meters) above sea level in Indian-controlled Kashmir amid tight security. Hindus worship a stalagmite inside the cave as an incarnation of the Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and regeneration. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

  • Picture taken on September 21, 2012 near Chamonix of the 'Mer de Glace', France longest glacier, visited each year by more than 500.000 tourists. (JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/GettyImages)

  • This 2009 photo released by Extreme Ice Survey shows Birthday Canyon in Greenland furing the filming of "Chasing Ice." The film, about climate change, follows National Geographic photographer James Balog across the Arctic as he deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras designed to capture a multi-year record of the world's changing glaciers. (AP Photo/Extreme Ice Survey, James Balog)

  • A Picture taken on August 31, 2012 shows the Bossons glacier in the fog, near Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, French Alps, where will take place the Mont-Blanc North Face Ultra-Trail, a 168km race around the Mont Blanc crossing France, Italy and Swiss. The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) is a mountain ultramarathon with numerous passages in high altitude (>2500m), in difficult weather conditions (night, wind, cold, rain or snow). (JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A close-up view of Mendenhall Glacier, on a sunny day, on Saturday, June 23, 2012, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

  • In this picture taken Aug. 25, 2012, a flock of alpine sheep walk on a cliff path on the way from summer grazing high above the Aletschgletscher glacier, background, down to Belalp in the canton of Valais, during the "Schaeferwochenende" (Shepherd's Weekend) in Belalp near Blatten, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott)

  • Ice chunks sit in Mendenhall Lake, in front of the Mendenhall Glacier, on Saturday, June 23, 2012, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

  • Spray from the heavily flowing Nugget Falls carries in front of the Mendenhall Glacier on Saturday, June 23, 2012, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

  • This photo provided by Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center shows a growth in snow-field volume in the Teton range of the Cody Bowl this fall over previous years. Scientists who monitor the effects of global warming are watching glaciers shrink all over the world but this year could go down as an exception in parts of the Rocky Mountains. (AP Photo/Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center, Bob Comey)

  • The tail end of the Bossons Glacier in Mont Blanc chain is pictured in the French Alps, on December 26, 2012 in Chamonix. (JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Tourists in Argentina have been treated to a spectacular natural phenomenon when a major portion of the country's famed Perito Moreno glacier collapsed into Lake Argentina. Huge chunks of ice crashed into the lake below.