Greenland’s Record-Breaking Melt

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Greeland's Ice Melt

Last weekend, while the Northeast shivered from unseasonably frigid temperatures, Greenland was broiling.

Warm, southerly winds gust to hurricane force of over 75 mph in a staggering early season heatwave. Temperatures hit 36 degrees Fahrenheit (20 Celsius) above average along the southwest coast of Greenland on Monday, April 11. Ice has begun to melt with gusto.

According to the Danish Meteorological Institute, an early melt event over Greenland’s ice sheet occurred this week, smashing by a month the previous record of more than 10 percent of the ice sheet.

The melt was driven by warm air from the southwest and rain along the coast. According to the Danish Meteorological Institute, almost 12 percent of Greenland’s ice sheet shed at least one millimeter of melt water on April 11.

The Arctic is experiencing unprecedented warmth for 2016. The High Arctic—above 80 degrees north latitude—is the warmest it has ever been in modern times.

Tropical heat is being transferred from a record hot El Niño pole-ward in the Northern Hemisphere due to a weakness in the polar jet stream.

Last summer, my colleague from York University recorded the rate of loss that the Greenland ice sheets are undergoing post 2010. Those ice sheets are melting three times faster than prior to 1980.

Greenland is losing 8,300 metric tons of ice per second each day during the summer melt—the equivalent of 286,848 Olympic swimming pools worth of water every 24 hours. Frighteningly, that is ice melting on the land running off into the North Atlantic Ocean.

This has devastating implications for sea level rise along the U.S. eastern seaboard, particularly for the low-lying sunshine state of Florida.

Also, the ice-cold melt waters are diluting the normally saltier polar waters, which are heavier and act like a weight on a conveyor belt, pulling the lighter, warmer North Atlantic Gulf Stream water back towards the equator. Greenland’s melt waters are slowing down the Atlantic Gulf Stream current by as much as 30 percent. The Gulf Stream brings heat from the equator for 163 million people of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, enabling those countries to be habitable and grow food crops.

It is clearly time to take the climate in crisis very seriously and terminate subsidizing the fossil industry—the wealthiest polluters on the globe.

All towns and cities across America and around the globe are required to future-proof in the face of the forthcoming wild weather.

Earth Doctor Reese Halter is the author of “Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save Our Oceans.”