Nepal | July 16, 2020

Walloped by heat wave, Greenland sees massive ice melt

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Share Now:

BERLIN: The heat wave that smashed high temperature records in five European countries a week ago is now over Greenland, accelerating the melting of the island’s ice sheet and causing massive ice loss in the Arctic.

Greenland, the world’s largest island, is a semi-autonomous Danish territory between the Atlantic and Arctic oceans that has 82% of its surface covered in ice.

The area of the Greenland ice sheet that is showing indications of melt has been growing daily, and hit a record 56.5% for this year on Wednesday, said Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist with the Danish Meteorological Institute. She says that’s expected to expand and peak on Thursday before cooler temperatures slow the pace of the melt.

More than 10 billion tons (11 billion US tons) of ice was lost to the oceans by surface melt on Wednesday alone, creating a net mass ice loss of some 197 billion tons (217 billion US tons) from Greenland in July, she said.

“It looks like the peak will be today. But the long-term forecast is for continuing warm and sunny weather in Greenland, so that means the amount of the ice loss will continue,” she said Thursday in a telephone interview from Copenhagen.

The scope of Wednesday’s ice melt is a number difficult to grasp. To understand just how much ice is being lost, a mere 1 billion tons — or 1 gigaton — of ice loss is equivalent to about 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, the Danish Meteorological Institute said. And 100 billion tons (110 billion US tons) corresponds to a 0.28 mm (0.01 inch) rise in global sea levels.

Mottram said since June 1 — roughly the start of the ice-loss season — the Greenland ice sheet has lost 240 gigatons (240 billion metric tons) this year. That compares with 290 gigatons lost overall in the 2012 melt season, which usually goes through the end of August.

A June 2019 study by scientists in the US and Denmark said melting ice in Greenland alone will add between 5 and 33 centimetres (2 to 13 inches) to rising global sea levels by the year 2100. If all the ice in Greenland melted — which would take centuries — the world’s oceans would rise by 7.2 meters (23 feet, 7 inches), the study found.

The current melting has been brought on by the arrival of the same warm air from North Africa and Spain that melted European cities and towns last week, setting national temperature records in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Britain.

In Russia, meanwhile, forest fires caused by hot, dry weather and spread by high winds are raging over nearly 30,000 square kilometres (11,580 square miles) of territory in Siberia and the Russian Far East — an area the size of Belgium. The smoke from these fires, some of them in Arctic territory, is so heavy it can easily be seen in satellite photos and is causing air quality problems in towns and some cities, including Russia’s third-largest city, Novosibirsk. Residents want the Russian government to do more to fight the blazes.

Greenland has also been battling a slew of Arctic wildfires, something that Mottram said was uncommon in the past.

In Greenland, the melt area this year is the second-biggest in terms of ice area affected, behind more than 90% in 2012, said Mark Serreze, director of the Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, which monitors ice sheets globally. Records go back to 1981.

A lot of what melts can later refreeze onto the ice sheet, but because of the conditions ahead of this summer’s heat wave, the amount of ice lost for good this year might be the same as in 2012 or more, according to scientists. They noted a long build up to this summer’s ice melt — including higher overall temperatures for months — and a very dry winter with little snow in many places, which would normally offer some protection to glacier ice.

“This is certainly a weather event superimposed on this overall trend of warmer conditions” that have increasingly melted Greenland ice over the long term, Serreze said.

Compounding the melt, the Greenland ice sheet started out behind this year because of the low ice and snow accumulation, said Snow and Ice Data Center scientist Twila Moon.

With man-made climate change, “there’s a potential for these kind of rates to become more common 50 years from now,” Moon said.

Heat waves have always occurred, but Mike Sparrow, a spokesman for the UN World Meteorological Organization, noted that as global temperatures have risen, extreme heat waves are now occurring at least 10 times more frequently than a century ago. This year, the world saw its hottest month of June ever.

“These kind of heat waves are weather events and can occur naturally but studies have shown that both the frequency and intensity of these heat waves have increased due to global warming,” Sparrow said in a telephone interview from Geneva.

He noted that sea ice spread in the Arctic and Antarctic are both currently at record lows.

“When people talk about the average global temperature increasing by a little more than 1 degree (Celsius), that’s not a huge amount to notice if you’re sitting in Hamburg or London, but that’s a global average and it’s much greater in the polar regions,” he said.

Even though temperatures will be going down in Greenland by the end of this week, the ice melt is not likely to stop anytime soon, Mottram said.

“Over the last couple of days, you could see the warm wave passing over Greenland,” she said. “That peak of warm air has passed over the summit of the ice sheet, but the clear skies are almost as important, or maybe even more important, for the total melt of the ice sheet.”

She added that clear skies are likely to continue in Greenland “so we can still get a lot of ice melt even if the temperature is not spectacularly high.”


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Surya Nepal donates Rs 10mln to COVID-19 fund

POKHARA: Surya Nepal Pvt Ltd has contributed ten million rupees to COVID-19 fund set up by Gandaki Province, on Tuesday. On behalf of Surya Nepal Pvt Ltd, Gautam Yadav and Baburam Karki handed over the cheque amount to Chief Minister Prithvi Subba Gurung. "This support has boosted our morale i Read More...

Jimmy Fallon, 'Tonight' show return to studio, sans audience

NEW YORK: The studio is largely empty, but Jimmy Fallon is out of his home and back to the “Tonight” show stage. The NBC late-night host returned to NBC's Rockefeller Center headquarters Monday, saying he hoped he could provide his audience with a little more “normal” during the coronavir Read More...

Vaccine candidate 'ZyCoV-D’ gets human clinical trials

KATHMANDU: In the race of vaccine candidates for coronavirus infection, the second indigenous vaccine developed in India from Zydus Cadila, a global healthcare company, has started human clinical trials. The vaccine candidate developed at its Vaccine Technology Centre in Ahmedabad, India, was fou Read More...

City aren't the only big spenders, says Guardiola

MANCHESTER: If there is one thing that still riles Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, it is the suggestion that his Premier League success is down to money. After City were cleared of breaking UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which overturned the club's Read More...

Health experts put Tokyo on highest coronavirus alert

Infection rate in Tokyo at stage "red" -health expert Tokyo in a "rather severe situation now" - Governor Koike Koike to hold media conference at 0800 GMT on Wednesday TOKYO: Health experts put Tokyo on the highest alert for coronavirus infections on Wednesday, alarmed by a recent spi Read More...

Sankhuwasabha Landslide: Missing persons not found yet, rescue operation continues

BHOJPUR: Persons who had gone missing in a landslide at Silichong Rural Municipality-1 of Sankhuwasabha district have not been found yet. Nine houses were washed away in the landslide that occurred at Sisuwakhola of the rural municipality on Saturday, July 11. Landslide triggered by incess Read More...

Coronavirus, US, New York,

Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 13.40 million, death toll over 578,000

At least 13,409,341 people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 578,228 people have died, a Reuters tally showed. Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019. Th Read More...

EU court scraps EU order to Apple to pay $15 bln in Irish taxes

LUXEMBOURG: Europe's second-top court on Wednesday rejected an EU order to iPhone maker Apple to pay 13 billion euros ($14.78 billion) in Irish back taxes. "The General Court annuls the contested decision because the Commission did not succeed in showing to the requisite legal standard that there Read More...