Accelerating ice loss in Greenland reflects the profound shifts currently underway around the planet.
It should hardly come as a surprise when scientists report glaciers around the world continue to melt at an increasingly fast pace, but the latest figures from Greenland have shocked even veteran climate scientists. According to a report from the Washington Post, Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, recently reported its highest June temperature on record at 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
The temperature reached record levels last Thursday, when it was hotter in Nuuk than in New York City by four degrees. According to the Danish Meteorological Institute, the temperature measurement has surpassed the previous record of 73.8 degrees Fahrenheit, clocked in June of 2014.
With average temperatures continually smashing records, you would be right in imagining that the massive glacial cover on Greenland and across the Arctic is feeling the effects. Scientists from the Earth Institute at Columbia University revealed that the record-high temperatures are creating a dangerous situation in Greenland that could have far-reaching effects throughout the rest of the world.
The study warns of a phenomenon called Arctic amplification, which refers to the increasing pace of Arctic warming compared to the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. The amplification is primarily driven by a loss of Arctic sea ice. When ice cover is widespread, more of the sun’s energy is reflected back into space. As it melts, however, the dark surface of the ocean absorbs that heat instead of reflecting it, leading to a net increase in heat energy throughout Arctic systems.
The study illustrates the link between seemingly obscure measurements and the risks posed by climate change to human interests. The biggest threat resulting from Arctic ice melt is sea-level rise – as melting freshwater from icebergs, sheets and glaciers is added to the ocean, the waterline will continue to encroach on coastal communities and infrastructure.
Researchers aren’t sure when exactly this will become a material problem for major populations in the U.S., but sea-level rise is already having serious consequences in low-lying nations like Bangladesh and the Marshall Islands.
A press release from Columbia’s Earth Institute describing the details of the study can be found here.