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Greenland Lost More than 2 Billion Tons of Ice, with over 40% of Country Experiencing Unusual Melting

The researchers found that the Greenland melt event was due to an atmospheric circulation

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Greenland, Ice, Country
The high melt is unusual so early in the season but not unprecedented. Pixabay

 In a sign that this year could once again set records for loss in Greenland ice, researchers have found that the island’s ice sheet lost more than two gigatonnes (a gigaton is equal to one billion tonnes) of ice in just a day this week due to a widespread melting event.

“Yesterday (13th June), we calculate #Greenland #icesheet lost more than 2 Gt of ice, melt was widespread but didn’t quite get to #SummitCamp which was just below 0 degree C. The high melt is unusual so early in the season but not unprecedented,” said the Greenland Twitter handle of the Arctic monitoring web-site Polar Portal of the Danish Arctic research institutions.

The researchers found that the Greenland melt event was due to an atmospheric circulation in the Arctic and North Atlantic.

The sudden spike in melting on June 13 this year is comparable to some spikes seen seven years ago, Thomas Mote, a research scientist at the University of Georgia who studies Greenland’s climate, told CNN.

Greenland, Ice, Country
Researchers have found that the island’s ice sheet lost more than two gigatonnes (a gigaton is equal to one billion tonnes) of ice in just a day this week due to a widespread melting event. Pixabay

Melt off early in the season makes it easier for further ice loss later in the season, the researcher said.

The Greenland melt season started very early this season – on April 30, which is the second earliest in a record that stretches back to 1980, according to scientists from the Danish Meteorological Institute.

“On average, the melt season starts around the 26th May, so we are almost a full month earlier this year” scientist Peter Langen said in a statement released by Polar Portal.

This year’s start of April 30 is second only to 2016, when a very unusual weather pattern caused a very early start to the melt season in mid-April.

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Number three on the list is May 2, 2010 when a similar weather pattern also caused early melt onset closely followed by May 7 in 2017. The top four have all occurred within the last 10 years.

One reason why melting has spiked this year is that Greenland experienced a dry and cold winter.

“Through most of the winter, the majority of the ice sheet has been unusually dry, which sets it up for enhanced melting – if the right weather conditions occur – in the summer this year” scientist Ruth Mottram was quoted as saying.

The Polar Portal is a collaboration between DMI, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) and Technical University of Denmark (DTU) under the Danish Ministry for Energy, Utilities and Climate. (IANS)

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Amount of Ice Circling Antarctica Plunges from Record High to Record Lows

Floating ice off the southern continent steadily increased from 1979 and hit a record high in 2014

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Ice, Antarctic, Scientists
FILE - An iceberg floats in Andvord Bay, Antarctica, Feb. 14, 2018. VOA

The amount of ice circling Antarctica is suddenly plunging from a record high to record lows, baffling scientists.

Floating ice off the southern continent steadily increased from 1979 and hit a record high in 2014. But three years later, the annual average extent of Antarctic sea ice hit its lowest mark, wiping out three-and-a-half decades of gains — and then some, a NASA study of satellite data shows.

In recent years, “things have been crazy,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. In an email, he called the plummeting ice levels “a white-knuckle ride.”

Serreze and other outside experts said they don’t know if this is a natural blip that will go away or more long-term global warming that is finally catching up with the South Pole. Antarctica hasn’t showed as much consistent warming as its northern Arctic cousin.

Ice, Antarctic, Scientists
The amount of ice circling Antarctica is suddenly plunging from a record high to record lows, baffling scientists. Pixabay

“But the fact that a change this big can happen in such a short time should be viewed as an indication that the Earth has the potential for significant and rapid change,” University of Colorado ice scientist Waleed Abdalati said in an email.

At the polar regions, ice levels grow during the winter and shrink in the summer. Around Antarctica, sea ice averaged 4.9 million square miles (12.8 million square kilometers) in 2014. By 2017, it was a record low of 4.1 million square miles (10.7 million square kilometers, according to the study in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The difference covers an area bigger than the size of Mexico. Losing that much in just three years “is pretty incredible” and faster than anything scientists have seen before, said study author Claire Parkinson, a NASA climate scientist.  Antarctic sea ice increased slightly in 2018, but still was the second lowest since 1979. Even though ice is growing this time of year in Antarctica, levels in May and June this year were the lowest on record, eclipsing 2017, according to the ice data center.

Ice melting on the ocean surface doesn’t change sea level. Non-scientists who reject mainstream climate science often had pointed at increasing Antarctic sea ice to deny or downplay the loss of Arctic sea ice.

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While the Arctic has shown consistent and generally steady warming and ice melt — with some slight year to year variation — Antarctica has had more ups and downs while generally trending upward. That is probably in part due to geography, Parkinson and Serreze said.

The Arctic is a floating ice cap on an ocean penned in by continents. Antarctica is just the opposite, with land surrounded by open ocean. That allows the ice to grow much farther out, Parkinson said.

When Antarctic sea ice was steadily rising, scientists pointed to shifts in wind and pressure patterns, ocean circulation changes or natural but regular climate changes like El Nino and its southern cousins. Now, some of those explanations may not quite fit, making what happens next still a mystery, Parkinson said. (VOA)