Europe’s July heat wave caused Greenland’s ice to melt at a rate that scientists didn’t expect to see for another 50 years.
Greenland’s ice sheet lost 55 billion tons of water over five days in July and August — enough to cover the state of Florida in almost 5 inches of water.
Ice melt due to climate change contributes to sea-level rise, which leads to flooding in coastal areas.
This summer, unprecedented wildfires also burned in Greenland, Alaska, and Siberia, contributing to ice melt as their soot and smoke traveled across the Arctic.
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Greenland is known for its glaciers, but in the past month, the island has shed ice and taken on fire.
Scientists didn’t expect to see Greenland melt at this rate for another 50 years: By the last week of July, the melting had reached levels that climate models projected for 2070 in the most pessimistic scenario.
On August 1, Greenland’s ice sheet lost 12.5 billions tons of ice, more than any day since researchers started recording ice loss in 1950, The Washington Post reported.
The dramatic melt suggests that Greenland’s ice sheet is approaching a tipping point that could set it on an irreversible course towards disappearing entirely. If that happens, catastrophic sea-level rise would swallow coastal cities across the globe. As ice melt continues to outpace scientists’ expectations, some fear that could happen more quickly than they thought.
55 billion tons of water in 5 days
The Arctic’s melting season starts each year in June and ends in August, with peak melting in July. However, the scale of ice loss in Greenland this year was extraordinary. From July 30 to August 3, melting occurred across 90% of the continent’s surface, dumping 55 billion tons of water over 5 days. That’s enough to cover Florida in almost 5 inches of water.
The melting mirrored the record-breaking ice loss seen in 2012, when almost all of Greenland’s ice sheet was exposed to melting for the first time in documented history. This year, the ice started to melt even earlier than in 2012 and three weeks earlier than average, CNN reported.
This extreme melting came during the hottest month ever recorded, as an intense heat wave washed over Europe then wafted over to Greenland. Low-elevation ice began to melt and form pools across the ice sheet, and those pools’ dark colors absorbed more sunlight, which further melted the glacier around them and exposed more ice to hot air.
Similarly above-average melting was observed in Switzerland — glaciers there lost 800 million tons of ice during the heat waves of June and July. Alaska also saw record sea-ice melt in July.
All that melting exposes more permafrost: frozen soil that releases powerful greenhouse gases when it thaws. That’s happening faster than scientists predicted. The release of those gases leads the planet to warm even more, which accelerates more ice melt.
Last month was an anomaly for …read more
Source:: Business Insider – Science