Updated: 8/11/2019 12:45:26 PM
On August 1, the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced its biggest single-day of ice loss in recorded history. About 12.5 billion tons of ice melted and poured into the Atlantic Ocean, satellite data showed. One day earlier, over 10 billion tons of ice melted.
Every 1 billion tons of ice loss creates enough water to fill 400,000 Olympic swimming pools, the Danish Meteorological Institute noted late last week. The center offered a comparison to help people try to understand just how much ice melted.
One Danish scientist offered a different comparison. Climate expert Martin Stendl said the total ice that melted in Greenland on July 31 and August 1 could cover all of Germany with seven centimeters of water.
Heatwaves have always happened, notes Mike Sparrow, an expert at the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization. But he says extreme heatwaves are happening 10 times more often now than they were a century ago.
Published Wednesday, July 31, 2019
The hot air that smashed European weather records this week looks set to move toward Greenland and could take the world's second-largest ice sheet close to or below the record low set in 2012, the United Nations said on Friday.
Clare Nullis, the spokesperson for the UN World Meteorological Organization, said the hot air moving up from North Africa had not merely broken European temperature records on Thursday, but surpassed them by two, three or four degrees Celsius, something she described as "absolutely incredible."
"According to forecasts, and this is of concern, the atmospheric flow is now going to transport that heat towards Greenland," she told a regular UN briefing in Geneva. "This will result in high temperatures and consequently enhanced melting of the Greenland ice sheet," she said. "We don't know yet whether it will be at the 2012 level, but it's close."
Melting of Greenland's ice sheet, a key part of the global climate system, would lead to rising sea levels and unstable weather.
Greenland had not had an exceptional year until June, but its ice had been melting rapidly in recent weeks, she said, citing data from a Danish climate scientist.
"In July alone, it lost 160 billion tonnes of ice through surface melting. That's roughly the equivalent of 64 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Just in July. Just surface melt - it's not including ocean melt as well."
Greenland's ice sheet covers 80 percent of the island and has developed over many thousands of years, with layers of snow compressed into ice.
The dome of ice rises to a height of 3,000 meters and the total volume of the ice sheet is approximately 2,900,000 cubic kilometers, which would raise global sea levels by seven meters if it melted entirely, according to the Polar Portal website.
The warmer air also had implications for Arctic ice extent, which as of July 15 was nearly the lowest on record, Nullis said.
She said increasingly frequent and intense heat waves were linked to manmade climate change. "What we saw with this one was that temperature records weren't just broken, they were smashed."
She cited a study by Britain's Met Office that found by 2050, record-breaking heat waves would happen every other year.
Greenland Heat Wave Facts
Affected Area: 1 km.
Alert Level: Green
Category: Heat wave