Greenland's record-breaking ice melt is now everyone's problem

Posted Aug 1, 2019 by Karen Graham
Greenland's ice sheet is in the midst of one of its most extreme melts ever recorded, with 160 billion tons of ice lost in July alone. What is happening in Greenland now affects all of us on the planet.
Greenland's ice sheets are melting due to global warming  opening up new shipping routes and sp...
Greenland's ice sheets are melting due to global warming, opening up new shipping routes and sparking a race for resources
Steen Ulrik Johannessen, AFP/File
Greenland is home to the world's second-largest ice sheet, covering 80 percent of the island nation. It saw extremely high temperatures in July—and that was before a new heatwave arrived this week and pushed temperatures above freezing even at the research station at the very top of the Greenland Ice Sheet.
Normally, there is some melting of the Greenland ice sheet in the summer months, but this year, the melt began earlier, in May, and the melting has continued to accelerate rapidly, owing to a heat dome that baked Europe two weeks ago and then moved north to Greenland and the Arctic circle.
With this week's latest European heatwave also expected to move further north, temperatures are forecast to rise into the 70s Fahrenheit on parts of the coast, according to Xavier Fettweis, a climate researcher at the University of Liège, reports Inside Climate News.
The mammoth ice sheet rises 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) above sea level. Forecasters are predicting it will be particularly warm at the summit this week - with the temperature rising to very close to zero degrees. "It's a very warm temperature for that altitude," said Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute, reports CNN News.
The adverse effects of the thaw
The extreme lows in Arctic ice, both on and off the land this year appears to be a harbinger of things to come. The big worry for many climatologists is that this extreme melting is happening much earlier than models have predicted. "By mid to end of the century is when we should be seeing these melt levels—not right now," Mottram said. "[The models] are clearly not able to capture some of these important processes."
But what is happening in Greenland is not staying in Greenland. Jason Box, professor, and ice climatologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland said this year's melt is flooding the North Atlantic with fresh water, which could affect the weather in northwestern Europe
This would mean more flooding like the UK saw in 2015 and 2016. "Whatever happens in Greenland radiates its impact down," he said.
Water produced by the melting of Greenland's ice sheet adds more than one millimeter to global sea levels, according to Box. But countries in the tropics could see a rise of two millimeters or more, he said.
Another effect of the ice melt in Greenland is all the freshwater pouring into the ocean. Freshwater will remain on the sea's surface because salt water is heavier. This alters air circulation currents and creates unusual weather patterns, which experts say favor extreme weather events, like the recent heatwaves.
The heat also causes more evaporation, leading to heavier rainfall. And keep in mind that the Arctic region, as a whole, is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet - a phenomenon that has been attributed to human-caused climate change.
Using the Copernicus European observation satellite network  we can compare the thaw at the end of J...
Using the Copernicus European observation satellite network, we can compare the thaw at the end of June 2019 on the northeastern Greenland ice sheet to the same area in previous years.