Greenland Glacier Ice Loss: Another Sign of Global Warming
By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
It’s not often – at least until recently -- that Greenland is in the news. But the 1.3 million square miles of mostly frozen island in the North Atlantic could be a worrisome sign of the reality of global warming.
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On August 2, Greenland lost 12.5 billion tons of ice in one cataclysmic calving. That was enough frozen water to fill more than four million Olympic-size swimming pools. It was “the largest single-day loss in recorded history and another stark reminder of the climate crisis,” CNN reported.
Villagers in Kulusuk, Greenland, heard what sounded like an explosion when the ice broke off from the Helheim glacier more than five miles away. Ironically, the glacier is named after the realm of the dead in Norse mythology.
Estimated Temperature at the Center of Greenland’s Ice Sheet Was Close to a Record High
According to The Local, an English-language Danish journal, the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) reported that the estimated temperature at the center of the Greenland ice sheet on August 2 was -2 degrees Celsius or 28.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
It wasn’t a record high temperature, but close to it. And the phenomenon was not unexpected. On July 30, Martin Stendel, a DMI climate scientist, tweeted that forecasts indicated what would be the second largest ice melt since 1950, when reliable records first began.
“Glaciers like Helheim, and even the much smaller ones around villages like Kulusuk, are powerful enough to make the global sea level rise by half a millimeter [.0002 feet] in just a month -- something NASA researchers say cannot be ignored,” CNN noted.
The U.S. news agency also pointed out that “Greenland's ice sheet usually melts during the summer but it started earlier than normal this year, in May, and has been melting ‘persistently’ over the past four months, which have recorded all-time temperature highs.”
Melting water from Greenland is the largest current contributor to global sea level rise, double that of Antarctica. That makes the Danish territory ground zero for scientists studying climate change.
Role of the Oceans Melting Greenland Project
Kulusuk is also the home base of NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) project. The study collects data about water temperatures and glaciers to determine how fast Greenland’s ice is melting and how fast sea levels will rise around the world.
Josh Willis, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is in the fourth year of this five-year research project. Willis told CBS News that his program’s abbreviation, OMG, was no mistake. He said humankind should be surprised and pay attention.
Willis’s team has dropped probes into the ocean to understand how the waters around Greenland are warming and contributing to the melting of glaciers.
"There's enough ice in Greenland to raise sea levels by 25 feet worldwide," Willis said. "Now, we don't think it'll happen right away, but just how fast it does [melt] is something we're trying to figure out with OMG."
Disappearance of Ice in Greenland Has Global Implications
The importance of Greenland’s ice melt is not just a local matter for the Danes and Greenlanders. As Willis told CBS, "We all live with one ocean. So a billion tons of ice lost here in Greenland means higher sea levels in Florida, California, New York, even as far as Australia."