|August 29, 2019|
Climate change melts billions of tons of ice in Greenland fifty years earlier than predicted
|Billions of tonnes of ice in Greenland is melting 50 years ahead of climate change schedules, preventing inhabitants from moving around the country by sledge and leading to the surreal spectacle of children playing in the Arctic sea due to rising temperatures.|
A heatwave gripping the Arctic region is causing unprecedented levels of melting ice, and has also seen global sea levels rise, in a clear sign that climate change is taking its severe toll much more quickly than predicted.
Earlier this month, in the town of Qaanaaq in northwestern Greenland, children were seen splashing around in the sea and wearing t-shirts, which would have been unheard of ten years ago.
Some schoolgirls have reportedly even started wearing skirts as part of their uniform. Climate experts said the sudden increase in melting ice was caused by greenhouse gas emissions over the past century and the so-called Albedo effect, where falling ice levels means that heat is absorbed by the planet instead of being reflected back into space, piling on yet more heat.
They also warned that daily lives of Greenlanders risked being upended by climate change, with iced areas usually traversed by sledge or snow ski turning into small lakes.
"We are already entering a new normal in the Arctic, and what we are seeing now is far and beyond what we predicted in 2019," said Dr Victoria Herrmann, the president and managing director of the Arctic Institute, which closely monitors climate change in Greenland.
"It has also fundamentally changed the environment of Greenland, both for the people that call it home and for its unique ecosystem. That will only get worse in the decades to come, where we will see ice free summers in the Arctic." Dr Herrmann added that climate change has led to lakes of melted ice appearing in Greenland that cause logistical problems for its 56,000 inhabitants.
"The territory relies heavily on land based transport to get from one community to the next via snowmobile or dog sled," she said. "But if it becomes a big puddle of water that makes it a lot more difficult to see relatives, or share the meat you have hunted, or go to a basketball game. It disrupts regular lives."
The glacier-covered island is experiencing record-breaking temperatures which rose to 22C on August 1, 15C above the average rate. On that same day, the severe heat caused Greenland to lose 12.5 billion tons of ice, a staggeringly large amount even by Arctic standards.
Martin Stendel, a Danish climate expert, has warned that the overall amount of ice that melted on July 31 and August 1 was enough to cover all of Florida with nearly five inches of water. Extreme cases of ice melting typically occur once every 250 years, however the enormous loss of ice on August 1 was the second since 2012, in a sign that the climate crisis is rapidly worsening.
"Greenland has had a fire this year, and a number over the last few years and there was also a landslide recently which swept away a village," said Dr Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist and glaciologist at the Danish Meteorological Institute. "There will be other big consequences of the heat - we are expecting more mosquitoes, for example."