Climate meltdown in Greenland to break all previous records, scientists say
GREENLAND’s Arctic ice sheet is heading for the greatest melt since modern records began, experts warned yesterday.
By the end of the first week of August, this year’s melting had shattered the previous record levels seen in 2010 – a month before the end of the annual melt season.
With more ice expected to melt rapidly over the next four weeks, experts in New York predict that Greenland is on course for the largest melt since satellite recording began more than 30 years ago.
It is the latest in a series of international reports revealing extreme melts in the Arctic, prompting renewed concern about the impact of climate change around the world.
Reporting his findings, Professor Marco Tedesco, assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at The City College of New York, said: “With more (melting) yet to come in August, this year’s overall melting will fall way above the old records. That’s a goliath year – the greatest melt since satellite recording began in 1979.”
Dr Thomas Mote, professor of geography at the University of Georgia and a colleague of Professor Tedesco, confirmed that the cumulative melt in 2012 had surpassed that of 2010 using a similar analysis.
The melting season in Greenland usually lasts from June – when the first puddles of meltwater appear – to early September, when temperatures cool.
Professor Tedesco said the changes fit with what most scientific models predict – the difference is in how quickly climate change seems to be causing such extreme melts.
He used data collected by microwave satellite sensors to calculate the duration and extent of melting throughout the season across the whole ice sheet.
This “cumulative melting index” was used as a measure of the “strength” of the melting season, with the index defined as the number of days when melting occurs multiplied by the total area affected by melting – so the higher the index, the more melting has occurred.
This spells a change for the face of southern Greenland, he added, with the ice sheet thinning at its edges and lakes on top of glaciers growing in size.
The August 8 record follows an announcement by NASA in mid-July highlighting unprecedented melting of more than 97 per cent of the surface of the Greenland ice sheet.
“That event was exceptional in the sense that it was an extremely rare event. Imagine Rio de Janeiro under a layer of snow and you get the idea,” said Professor Tedesco, whose research is ongoing.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said the news was “alarming” but not surprising.
He said: “I think this is part of a trend where we’re seeing the natural world going faster than scientists are predicting, particularly in the Arctic where the ice is potentially heading for its lowest ever levels at the moment.”
This year, Greenland experienced extreme melting in nearly every region – the west, north-west and north-east of the continent – and especially at high altitude. In most years, the ice and snow at higher elevations in southern Greenland melt for a few days at most. This year melting has already gone on for two months.
However, Professor Tedesco cautioned: “We have to be careful because we are only talking about a couple of years and the history of Greenland happened over millennia. But, as far as we know now, the warming that we see in the Artic is responsible for triggering processes that enhance melting.”
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