Greenland ice sheet lost six billion tonnes of ice in 3 days

Greenland’s north-western ice sheet lost around six billion tonnes of ice between July 15 and 17 during a heatwave, according to scientists.

This is the equivalent of enough water to flood the entire state of West Virginia in the US with a foot of water within three days.

Average temperatures in the Arctic usually remain cold, staying at around 0°C, but recently temperatures have reached as high as 15°C.

This has led to warnings from climate scientists, as the Arctic is now warming four times faster than the rest of the world.

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Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the University of Colorado with the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, told CNN: ‘The northern melt this past week is not normal, looking at 30 to 40 years of climate averages.

‘But melting has been on the increase, and this event was a spike in melt.’

NASA has said that if all of Greenland’s ice sheet were to melt the world’s oceans would rise by seven metres.

Even if the world took bold action to reduce carbon emissions now, the world’s sea levels would still rise by about half a metre by the end of the century, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Climate scientists have concerns that the Greenland ice sheet will soon reach a tipping point where the rate of melting is faster than the rate of snowfall.

If this were to occur it would have profound effect on ocean currents, wind systems, rain patterns and rainforests, as well as lead to thousands of climate refugees due to raised sea levels.

When a similar event took place last year Marco Tedesco, glacier expert at Columbia University and scientist at NASA, told The Guardian: ‘It’s a very high level of melting and it will probably change the face of Greenland, because it will be a very strong driver for an acceleration of future melting, and therefore sea-level rise.

‘We had these sort of atmospheric events in the past but they are now getting longer and more frequent.

‘The snow is like a protective blanket so once that’s gone you get locked into faster and faster melting, so who knows what will happen with the melting now. It’s amazing to see how vulnerable these huge, giant areas of ice are. I’m astonished at how powerful the forces acting on them are.’

Photo by Annie Spratt


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