Greenland’s ice sheet melted at an unprecedented rate and over a larger area than any time in its 30 years of taking measurements, NASA said.
The U.S. space agency published satellite imagery showing that most of the entire ice cover including the thin areas near the coast and the two-mile thick areas in the center, experienced some degree of melting.
During the summer months, around half of Greenland’s surface ice naturally melts in a normal year, with some of the melted water refreezing and some of it running into the ocean.
But in mid-July of this year, approximately 97 percent of the ice sheet melted, NASA said. Researchers are not sure if the heavy melting will seriously impact the overall loss of ice or contribute to the rise in sea levels around the world.
“This event, combined with other natural but uncommon phenomena, such as the large calving event last week on Petermann Glacier, are part of a complex story,” NASA’s Tom Wagner said in a release.
However, the ice loss in July was so large that scientists thought there was an error.
“This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?” Son Nghiem of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.
Nghiem sent the findings to other scientists, who confirmed that Greenland experienced high temperatures in July and melting took place over a large swath of the ice sheet.One member of the research team, glaciologist Lora Koenig, noted that large-scale melts happen every 150 years, with the last being in 1889. “This event is right on time,” said Koenig, but added that if the trend continues, it will be worrisome.
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