Greenland breaks ice melting record by four weeks

By Kay Steiger
Wednesday, August 15, 2012 15:20 EDT
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Drifting ice via Shutterstock
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In a terrifying reminder that climate change is reality, researchers have discovered that Greenland’s ice sheet melted as much as all of last year by Aug. 8—a full four weeks ahead of schedule and breaking any record since scientists began recording data on the ice sheet 30 years ago.

“With more 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,” Marco Tedesco, assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at The City College of New York, told Live Science.

The ice sheet typically melts during the summer season, from June to September, but researchers looked at U.S. Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program data to determine that melting was extreme in every region of Greenland. They found melting particularly surprising in the parts of the country with high elevation, where ice usually only melts for a few days a year. But this year, Tedesco said, the melting had already been going on for two months.

The reason this is problematic is not because the amount of water produced is drastic, Tedesco said, but rather because the water could lubricate chunks of snow and ice, causing them to drop more quickly into the ocean.

“It’s no doubt that the warming of the Arctic and whatever is related to that is responsible at least for triggering the melting mechanism at the beginning of the season and providing enough gas to keep it going,” Tedesco said.

This compounds the data NASA distributed in July, which revealed striking satellite data showing 97 percent of ice veneer melting occurred in four days.

Add to that a record-setting rainfall that hit Needles, California, when rain began falling at a temperature of 115°F or 46.1°C, making it the hottest rainfall on record.

[Drifting ice via Shutterstock]

Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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