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An iceberg melts away in 2012, the last year of record-setting heat in Greenland. Conditions in 2016 feel "eerily similar" to that year, one climate scientist says. (Photo: wilco737/flickr/cc)

Greenland Ice Sheet Shatters Records with Early Melt

'To say the 2016 Greenland melt season is off to the races is an understatement'

Nika Knight Beauchamp

Greenland's ice sheet has started melting so early that scientists initially thought their models had broken when they saw the record-breaking measurements.

Melt in Greenland, over this wide an area, this early in the season, is not supposed to happen.
—Climate scientist Mike MacFarrin

"To say the 2016 Greenland melt season is off to the races is an understatement," reported Climate Central's Brian Kahn on Tuesday. "Warm, wet conditions rapidly kicked off the melt season this weekend, more than a month-and-a-half ahead of schedule."

The annual melting of Greenland's ice sheet officially starts when at least 10 percent of the ice sheet has melted. "The former top 3 earliest dates for a melt area larger than 10 percent were previously all in May," wrote Danish ice monitoring research outlet Polar Portal.

In average years, the melt season in Greenland begins in late May or early June. On Tuesday, however, the temperature in a small village in southwest Greenland hit a record-setting high of 64.4°F, and "heavy rain also inundated local communities," Kahn reported. The high temperatures and rainy conditions are contributing to the ice sheet's melt.

"Melt in Greenland, over this wide an area, this early in the season, is not supposed to happen," wrote climate scientist Mike MacFarrin in a response posted on the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) website, detailing how the early melt may derail critical ice monitoring plans.

"Scientists at the [Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI)] were at first incredulous due to the early date," reported Polar Portal.

Indeed, the melt season's early onset is so unusual that scientists at first thought a technical malfunction was to blame. "We had to check that our models were still working properly," said Peter Langen, a climate scientist at DMI, to Polar Portal.

The measurements were accurate, however, and the record-breaking early melt season in Greenland will have adverse effects around the world.

As Kahn writes, "The Greenland ice sheet represents one of the most massive stores of ice on the planet. If it were all to melt, it would raise oceans about 20 feet. Melting ice is also affecting ocean circulation and even the drift of the North Pole."

"Despite the ice sheet's remote location, its slushy fingers reach across the globe, influencing sea levels and how fast the Gulf Stream current moves," observed Kahn last year, when the ice sheet melted unusually quickly under hot summer temperatures.

The melt season's start previously broke records in 2012, 2010, 2007, and 2002, noted MacFerrin, pointing to an obvious trend as the globe warms faster than most experts predicted.


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'Horrific': 50 Migrants Found Dead in Abandoned Trailer Truck in Texas

"We need to end Title 42 and fix our broken immigration system so these unimaginable tragedies stop happening," said Rep. Chuy García. "People fleeing violence and poverty deserve a chance at a better life."

Jake Johnson ·


Harris Says White House Not 'Discussing' Use of Federal Land for Abortion Care

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are among the Democratic lawmakers who have expressed support for the idea as GOP-controlled states move to outlaw abortion.

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Abortion Rights Defenders Applaud Judge's Block on Utah 'Trigger Ban'

"Today is a win, but it is only the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult fight," said one pro-choice advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


Scores Feared Dead and Wounded as Russian Missiles Hit Ukraine Shopping Center

"People just burned alive," said Ukraine's interior minister, while the head of the Poltava region stated that "it is too early to talk about the final number of the killed."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biodiversity Risks Could Persist for Decades After Global Temperature Peak

One study co-author said the findings "should act as a wake-up call that delaying emissions cuts will mean a temperature overshoot that comes at an astronomical cost to nature and humans that unproven negative emission technologies cannot simply reverse."

Jessica Corbett ·

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