July 26, 2012

Greenland’s ice sheet hits record melt

Greenland's ice sheet meltGreenland ice sheet melts the fasted at any time in recorded history.

The Greenland ice sheet melted the fastest at any other time in recorded history last month, with nearly the entire ice sheet showing signs of thawing.

The melting, over a period of just four days, was so rapid that the scientists at first believed it had to be a mistake. “This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?” Son Nghiem of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena

Greenland's Ice Melt

Greenland’s ice sheet on the left, and four days after on the right. Light pink depicts ‘probable melt’  and dark pink corresponds to melt, when more than two satellites detected surface melting. Photograph: Nasa

The melting has alarmed scientists, and deepened fears about the pace and future consequences of climate change.

The four days between the 8th of July and the 12th of July saw the expansion of melting ice from about 40% of the ice sheet surface to 97%. Although the event was exceptional, and Greenland did return to more typical summer conditions by 21 or 22 July, the event should be viewed alongside other compelling evidence of climate change.

Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, commented, “What we are seeing at the highest elevations may be a sort of sign of what is going on across the ice sheet. At lower elevations on the ice sheet, we are seeing earlier melting, melting later in the season, and more frequent melting over the last 30 years and that is consistent of what you would expect with a warming climate.”

It was the second unusual event in Greenland in a matter of days, after an iceberg the size of Manhattan broke off from the Petermann glacier.

The melting ice sheet is a significant factor in sea level rise. Scientists attribute about one-fifth of the annual sea level rise to the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

Source: The Guardian


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