The Greenland ice sheet experienced a “massive melting event” this week, releasing enough mass “to cover Florida with 2 inches (5 centimetres) of water” according to Danish government researchers who monitor the ice sheet.
The researchers, who post the results of their monitoring on the website Polar Portal, said the melting event on Wednesday was the third-largest single day loss of ice in Greenland since 1950 — with the others happening in 2012 and 2019.
Although the 2019 event was larger by volume, researchers say Wednesday’s event affected a bigger area.
WHY DID SO MUCH ICE MELT?
An estimated 22 gigatons of ice melted from the sheet on Wednesday.
More than half of that mass (12 gigatons) flowed into the ocean according to climate scientist Xavier Fettweis of the University of Liege in Belgium.
Scientists have pointed to changes in atmospheric circulation patterns as a determining factor, noting that the exceptionally rapid melting followed warm air being trapped over the Arctic island.
The Danish Meteorological Institute is currently reporting summer temperatures exceeding 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) in northern Greenland — twice the summer average.
On Thursday, thermometers in the region hit 23.4 degrees Celsius.