Quantcast

Greenland Temps Soar 40 Degrees Above Normal, Record Melting of Ice Sheet

Climate
Aerial view of icebergs on Arctic Ocean in Greenland. Explora_2005 / iStock / Getty Images

The annual Arctic thaw has kicked off with record-setting ice melt and sea ice loss that is several weeks ahead of schedule, scientists said, as the New York Times reported.


Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, there is open water in areas north of Alaska where it is rarely, if ever, seen, the Washington Post reported.

The accelerated ice melt in Greenland was caused by an usual weather pattern, where high-pressure air lingered, bringing warm air up from the south, which pushed the mercury 40 degrees Fahrenheit above normal temperatures. Add to that continuously cloudless skies and snowfall that is well below normal, and the conditions were ripe for melting across most of the ice sheet.

Last week, Greenland lost 2 billion tons of ice or about 45 percent of the surface in just one day. Measuring about 275,000 square miles, the ice melt was slightly larger than Texas, said Marco Tedesco, a geophysicist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, according to the New York Times.

While the high temperatures set a record early date for such widespread melting, there was slightly greater melting in 2012, but a bit later in June. That year, high pressure returned during the summer months, which caused record ice-sheet melt. Greenland lost 200 billion tons of ice that summer, the New York Times reported. But, so much melting this early in summer could be ominous, putting 2019 on pace to set a new record for ice loss, according to CNN.

"The melting is big and early," said Jason Box, a climatologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, as the Washington Post reported. In May, Box predicted that 2019 would be a big melt year for Greenland, as CNN reported.

His prediction was based on the lower than average snow cover in Western Greenland and the melt days that began in April, which is unusually early. The melt season also started three weeks earlier than average and earlier than the record-setting year of 2012, according to CNN.

The thin snow cover that fell this winter melts quickly, which exposes old snow and ice. The older snow absorbs more sunlight and, therefore, accelerates melting, according to the New York Times.

"These pulses of melting really change the face of the snow," Tedesco said, as the New York Times reported. "It can make the snow melt faster and faster."

While the fast melting is jarring, it will not contribute to sea level rise immediately since most of the water stays near the ice sheet and has the potential to refreeze. Only as the warm season continues does the water drain down through the ice and out into the ocean, according to the New York Times. Then the sea level will start to rise.

"Greenland has been an increasing contributor to global sea level rise over the past two decades," said Thomas Mote, a scientist at the University of Georgia who studies Greenland's climate, as CNN reported. "And surface melting and runoff is a large portion of that."

The current melting, while unusual and alarming, has precedent. Mote pointed to 2012, 2010 and 2007 as notable melt years that were once unthinkable, but now might be the new normal.

"We've seen a sequence of these large melt seasons, starting in 2007, that would have been unprecedented earlier in the record," he said, as CNN reported. "We didn't see anything like this prior to the late 1990s."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Lara Hata / iStock / Getty Images

By SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

Rice is a staple in many people's diets. It's filling, inexpensive, and a great mild-tasting addition to flavorful dishes.

Read More Show Less
Hinterhaus Productions / DigitalVision / Getty Images

By Lindsay Campbell

From pastries to plant-based—we've got you covered.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
An image of the trans-alaskan oil pipeline that carries oil from the northern part of Alaska all the way to valdez. This shot is right near the arctic national wildlife refuge. kyletperry / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The Trump administration has initialized the final steps to open up nearly 1.6 million acres of the protected Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to allow oil and gas drilling.

Read More Show Less
Westend61 / Getty Images

By Elizabeth Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Vegetarianism has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Read More Show Less
Kaboompics / Pexels

Tensions between lawmakers and several large manufacturing companies came to a head on Capitol Hill this week during a hearing on toxic fluorochemicals in U.S. drinking water.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A male african lion plays with his 4 month old cub at Big Marsh in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Nick Garbutt / Barcroft Media / Getty Images

A Florida man has been allowed to import a Tanzanian lion's skin, skull, claws and teeth, a first since the animal was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, according to US Fish and Wildlife Service records uncovered by the Center for Biological Diversity through the Freedom of Information Act.

Read More Show Less

By Julie Dermansky

A fracked natural gas well in northwest Louisiana has been burning for two weeks after suffering a blowout. A state official said the fire will likely burn for the next month before the flames can be brought under control by drilling a relief well.

Read More Show Less

The universe is expanding much quicker than previously thought, according to researchers in Germany, leading scientists to suggest it may be more than 2 billion years younger than past estimates.

Read More Show Less