Greenland Melt Could Break Records

July 31, 2019

Washington Post:

The same heat dome that roasted Europe and broke national temperature records in five countries last week has shifted to Greenland, where it is causing one of the biggest melt events ever observed on the fragile ice sheet.

By some measures, the ice melt is more extreme than during a benchmark record event in July 2012, according to scientists analyzing the latest data. During that event, about 98 percent of the ice sheet experienced some surface melting, speeding up the process of shedding ice into the ocean.

The fate of Greenland’s ice sheet is of critical importance to every coastal resident in the world, since Greenland is already the biggest contributor to modern-day sea level rise. The pace and extent of Greenland ice melt will help determine how high sea levels climb and how quickly.

As a result of both surface melting and a lack of snow on the ice sheet this summer, “this is the year Greenland is contributing most to sea level rise,” said Marco Tedesco, a climate scientist at Columbia University.

To illustrate the magnitude of ice contained in Greenland, consider that if the entire ice sheet were to melt, it would raise sea levels by 23 feet. Scientists are using aircraft, field research, satellites and other tools to improve their understanding of how quickly ice is being lost.

Jason Box, a climate scientist who studies Greenland’s ice sheet, examined recent field data from two locations on the ice sheet, both of which showed more ice loss so far during this event than in 2012.

At one location, 75 miles east of Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, the equivalent of 8.33 feet of water (2.54 meters) had melted as of July 31, slightly exceeding the value of 8.27 feet (2.52 meters) from 2012.

At another location 497 miles to the north, the equivalent of 7.38 feet (2.25 meters) of water had melted, topping the record of 6.30 feet (1.92 meters) in 2012. In an email, Box said the 2019 melt at this location is twice the average over the last decade.

The Danish Meteorological Institute tweeted that more than half the ice sheet experienced some degree of melting on Tuesday, according to a computer model simulation, which made it the “highest this year by some distance.”

But the peak of this melt event is likely still to come Wednesday or Thursday.

Xavier Fettweis, a climate scientist at University of Liège, tweeted that a computer simulation suggests the rate of melting will reach a maximum Thursday, which “could be the highest in Greenland history from 1950.”

Already this year, the ice sheet has endured exceptional melting. Between June 11 and 20, the ice sheet lost the equivalent of 80 billion tons of ice, the National Snow and Ice Data Center computed. Melting covered about 270,000 square miles, the most on record so early in the season. Temperatures leaped nearly 40 degrees above normal at the time.

The current record-setting heat dome parked over the ice sheet is bringing nearly cloudless skies and temperatures up to 30 degrees above average.

Even the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather observatory located at the National Science Foundation’s Summit Station, the ice sheet’s highest elevation (10,551 feet), has exceeded the freezing point.

Christopher Shuman, a glaciologist at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, said the temperature at Summit Station topped 32 degrees for at least eight hours Tuesday, exceeding the warmth during the 2012 melt event “in both magnitude and duration,” even surpassing 33.8 degrees (1 Celsius). The temperature may pass freezing yet again Wednesday and “we’ll get two straight days of substantial melt,” he said.

14 Responses to “Greenland Melt Could Break Records”

  1. redskylite Says:

    “Abrupt Arctic Climate Shifts Trigger Rapid Ecosystem Responses.

    New research finds that the Greenland environment is highly sensitive to recent warming trends.

    As the High North swelters through a record-breaking summer, with temperatures in parts of Greenland spiking up to 22°C above normal this June, new research suggests that ecosystems in this most rapidly warming part of the world are far more sensitive to sudden climate shifts than expected. ”

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