217 Billion Tons Of Greenland Ice Melted During The July Heatwave

July 2019's meltdown in Greeland has resulted in a global sea level rise of around half a millimeter (0.02 inches). Vadim Petrakov/Shutterstock

Greenland is turning to slush. Battered by ongoing heatwaves, some 197 billion tonnes (217 billion tons) of ice melted in Greenland in the month of July.

Danish polar research institutions have reported more than 10 billion tonnes (11 billion tons) of ice were lost to the ocean by surface melt on Wednesday, July 31, alone, according to the Associated Press. That’s a weight equivalent to around 30 Empire State Buildings. 

“Following a relatively dry winter and warm spring for Greenland, a major surface melt episode occurred between June 11 and 20,” the National Snow and Ice Data Center said on their website.

“Melting in Greenland through the end of spring has been significantly higher than the 1981 to 2010 average, with several areas exceeding 10 days of additional melt above the average, and a few regions with more than 20 days.”

Graph showing % of ice sheet melt extent in 2019 (red) compared to the 1981-2010 average (blue). NSICD/Thomas Mote/University of Georgia

Ruth Mottram, of the Danish Meteorological Institute, told CNN that July’s meltdown has resulted in a global sea level rise of around half a millimeter (0.02 inches).

This year’s thaw out has undoubtedly been given a boost by the tirade of heatwaves that have swept across the Northern Hemisphere, most notably in Europe. As climate scientists have shown, the unusual intensity of these record-smashing heatwaves is a symptom of human-induced climate change.

"These kinds of heatwaves are weather events and can occur naturally but studies have shown that both the frequency and intensity of these heatwaves have increased due to global warming," Mike Sparrow, a spokesperson for the UN's World Meteorological Organization, told CBC News.

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Things are only set to get worse in Greenland, too. The problem of melting polar ice creates a nasty positive feedback loop that meddles with the planet’s ability to cool off. Since ice is reflective, it does a good job at bouncing solar radiation back into space. However, with less ice, more of this heat energy is soaked up by the Earth and becomes trapped in the atmosphere. 

While seasonal melting of the ice sheet is nothing unusual, these levels are staggeringly high and close to rivaling record levels seen in 2012 when the ice sheet lost about 250 billion tons of ice.

As if all of this wasn’t enough to jar you off your chair, considerable chunks of the Arctic are currently on fire – literally. This year’s baking weather has also seen an "unprecedented" number of fires burning in parts of the planet north of the Arctic Circle, including Greenland, Russia, Canada, and Alaska.

 

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