A Heat Wave Has Triggered a ‘Massive Melting Event’ in Greenland

Greenland is sweltering under a recent heat wave that has caused a “massive melting event” in its ice sheet, according to a consortium of Danish Arctic research institutions called Polar Portal. 

The territory’s ice sheet has shed about eight billion tons of meltwater a day since last Wednesday, twice as much as its normal seasonal melt rate, due to temperatures that are averaging 10°C higher than past summers at this time. These single-day deluges of water are equivalent in volume to a two-inch-deep flood across the entire state of Florida, Polar Portal reported.

Northern Greenland is experiencing even more anomalous temperatures: for instance, Nerlerit Inaat Airport logged a record-breaking 23.4°C on Thursday. This makes Greenland the latest of many regions around the world to be breaking summer heat records and suffering the unpredictable consequences of extreme heat waves, which are linked to human-driven climate change. 

This season’s melt is still lower than the record set by Greenland in the summer of 2019, but a larger area of the ice sheet is melting relative to that year.

At 695,000 square miles, Greenland’s ice sheet covers the vast majority of its territory and is second only to the Antarctic ice sheet in size. For several decades, the freshwater sheet has been melting at an accelerated rate due to warming global temperatures, which is contributing to rising sea levels around the world. 

One recent study estimated that Greenland’s ice sheet could raise sea levels by as much as 18 centimeters by 2100. Heat waves anywhere on Earth are a deadly concern for local humans and wildlife, but anomalous temperatures in Greenland pose a truly global threat.