Temperatures have been above average “across the entire Arctic so far this year,” said Zack Labe, a climate scientist at the University of California at Irvine. Last week, temperatures in Greenland soared to a whopping 40 degrees above average.
This is “consistent with the long-term trend of a warming, changing Arctic,” Labe told the Capital Weather Gang.
So, what’s going on in this photo? For several years, Danish researchers have measured how thick the ice is around Greenland. Each June, just before all the sea ice has melted, they go out onto the ice sheet using dogsleds to collect their expensive instruments before they sink into the sea.
Ususally, the dogs are just on ice, but because of the unusual warmth, a layer of water was on top of the ice.
“Rapid melt and sea ice with low permeability and few cracks leaves the melt water on top,” explained Rasmus Tonboe of the Danish Meteorological Institute.
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Herdis Preil Damberg, a meteorologist with the DMI, said that “this year the expedition to retrieve the instruments (by dog sled, still the most practical way to get around in this region at this time of year) ran into a lot of standing water on the sea ice. The ice here forms pretty reliably every winter and is very thick, which means that there are relatively few fractures for meltwater to drain through.
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“Last week saw the onset of very warm conditions in Greenland, and in fact much of the rest of the Arctic, driven by warmer air moving up from the south,” Damberg said.
“This led to a lot of melting ice, both on the glaciers and ice sheet and on the still existing sea ice.”
Although Greenland’s ice-melting season normally runs from June to August, the DMI said this year’s melting started on April 30, the second-earliest time on records going back to 1980.
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Is there a connection to global warming? Melting ice could have a major effect on sea-level rise, one of the most dangerous effects of climate change that could drive millions of people living in coastal communities from their homes, Thomas Mote, a research scientist at the University of Georgia who studies Greenland’s climate, told CNN.
“Greenland has been an increasing contributor to global sea level rise over the past two decades,” Mote said. “And surface melting and runoff (are) a large portion of that.”
In addition, a scientific study released earlier this year suggests that melting ice from the world’s coldest regions, such as Greenland and Antarctica, could bring more extreme weather and unpredictable temperature changes around the world.
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Looking ahead, if the current warmth continues, scientists say “we should break a new record of melt over the Greenland ice sheet,” said Xavier Fettweis, a climatologist at the University of Liège in Belgium.
But weather will play a role, as always: “2019 has been… anomalous so far, but also quite variable. It’s early and weather is weather, so keep your eyes peeled,” said Mike MacFerrin, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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