Arctic Heatwaves are Melting Greenland's Glaciers
After many days of uncharacteristically hot weather in northern Greenland, the region’s ice has been rapidly melting. In only two days, between July 15 and 17, enough melted to cover the state of West Virginia with water. This trend has spanned decades: Since the 1980s, Greenland’s temperatures have been warming four times faster than the global average. Before climate change, the Arctic island nation saw 600 gigatons of snowfall and about 300 gigatons of melting yearly. Now, it loses about 300 gigatons of ice per year, which snowfall can’t replenish. Another study found that so much of Greenland has melted that its gravitational field has been measurably changed.
NOAA: Arctic Report Card 2021, December 14, 2021
NOAA: Arctic Report Card 2021 | A Flood of Change, December 14, 2021.
NASA: Greenland's Extreme Melt, 1 Year Later, August 5, 2020.
Why This Matters
When the entirety of Greenland melts, the global sea level will rise by 7.5 meters. Already, Greenland’s ice sheet is nearing a tipping point and causing the sea level to rise gradually. Less than 16% of the world’s coastal regions remain intact due to global warming, which will get worse as ice continues to disappear. Sea levels in the US are set to rise a foot in the next 30 years, potentially intensifying hurricanes and flooding, while small island nations could
Now This: How Melting Arctic Ice Affects the Earth, August 22, 2021.
CNN: 'Mind boggling' | See how rising sea levels will affect the coasts, February 17, 2022.
NOAA: Sea Level Rise Report Release, February 15, 2022.
Glaciers elsewhere are melting, too. Scientists in Switzerland recorded a record-high freezing point in the Alps, signaling uncertainty for the future of alpine ice. In the Italian Dolomites earlier this month, a heatwave caused a deadly glacial collapse, killing 11 people. Some experts predict that over the next one to three decades, the Alps could lose 25% of snow cover. Currently, the is so pronounced it can be observed from space.
1 News: Glaciers melting at an alarming rate, May 1, 2022.
NewsRme: The Alps are becoming green as a result of climate change, June 3, 2022.
Glacial melt around the world has contributed to 21% of sea level rise over the past two decades, and unfortunately, there’s no turning back. Right now, the status of the world’s ice looks grim. In March, despite experiencing opposite seasons, record-breaking heatwaves hit both the North and South Poles. Moreover, glacial loss intensifies warming as there’s less ice to reflect the sun’s rays.
Though Greenland’s fate is sealed, other ice sheets may still be salvageable. Scientists are currently assessing whether or not the Thwaites Glacier (“Doomsday Glacier”) can reverse its melting trend.
”There’s still time to avoid catastrophic sea level rise, but every year that greenhouse gas emissions continue at the present rate increases the chances of serious problems down the road," said William Lipscomb, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory, in a statement to USA Today.
PBS: Scientists measure how quickly crucial Antarctica glacier is melting, July 25, 2022.
MSNBC: 'Doomsday Glacier' | Experts Raise Alarms About Cracking Antarctic Ice Shelf, December 30, 2021.
WW0 Instagram Live: Dr. Michalea King and John Kerry, September 24, 2020.