On Greenland’s highest summit, snow is the norm. But on the weekend of August 14-15, it rained. A lot. Seven billion tons of water hit the ice sheet for the heaviest rainfall since researchers started keeping records in 1950.
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This means that Greenland is heating way, way too fast, according to senior research scientist Ted Scambos of the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center “What is going on is not simply a warm decade or two in a wandering climate pattern,” Scambos told CNN. “This is unprecedented.”
Over the weekend, temperatures at the Greenland summit climbed above freezing for the third time in the last 10 years. This resulted in an ice mass loss seven times higher than the daily mid-August average.
“Increasing weather events including melting, high winds, and now rain, over the last 10 years have occurred outside the range of what is considered normal,” said Jennifer Mercer, program officer for the Office of Polar Programs at the National Science Foundation, as reported by CNN. “And these seem to be occurring more and more.”
And July wasn’t any better. Last month, in a single day, the Greenland ice sheet lost more than 8.5 billion tons of surface mass. That’s the third instance in the past decade deemed “extreme melting” by scientists.
The culprit? You guessed it. Climate change. According to a recently published study in the journal The Cryosphere, since the mid-1990s, our planet has lost 28 trillion tons of ice. Much of that came from the Greenland ice sheet and other parts of the Arctic.
The recent deluge will alter the properties of Greenland’s snow. The ice crust it will leave behind will eventually be buried in snow, but will form a barrier preventing water from melting downward. Instead, there will be runoff at higher elevations.
“We are crossing thresholds not seen in millennia, and frankly this is not going to change until we adjust what we’re doing to the air,” Scambos told CNN.
Lead image via Pixabay