Ice is melting so fast in the glaciers covering Greenland that scientists are stepping up and sounding the alarm.
A team of Danish scientists monitoring the weather in the Arctic, particularly around Greenland, has made a startling discovery. According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, the massive ice sheet on the surface of Greenland is melting faster than it was at the same point during any prior year.
Even though it’s just April, researchers report that almost 12 percent of the Greenland ice sheet is coated with a least 1 millimeter of meltwater. The Danish Meteorological Institute stated that the last three earliest dates for reaching this milestone have all been in May.
It seems like broken ice melt records are becoming increasingly common these days. The ice sheet on Greenland lost a historic 562 gigatons (a gigaton is equal to one billion tons) of freshwater to the ocean. This amounted to an average global sea level rise of a millimeter in that year alone.
2012 was a particularly bad year for Greenland. There was one period in July of that year when the overwhelming majority of the ice sheet’s surface was covered in meltwater. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, “During a peak melt event in July, even the summit areas of the ice sheet, nearly two miles above sea level, saw snowmelt conditions. While this has been observed in ice cores a handful of times in the past 1,000 years, it had not previously occurred in this century.”
Scientists fear the negative effects of the rapidly melting ice in Greenland on other natural systems around the world. In addition to sea level rise, altering of ocean current patterns, and increased absorption of solar radiation, many researchers fear that the rapid pouring of freshwater into the ocean as a result of melting ice could even be having a measurable effect on the Earth’s rotation.
The early spike in ice melt in Greenland, scientists say, will likely lead to a greater overall volume of ice loss by the end of the year.
A press release from the Danish Meteorological Institute describing the details of the study can be found here.