Saved by Summer Snow


You will have seen the headlines again in July: Due to a warmth wave, sufficient ice melted throughout sooner or later in Greenland to cowl Florida in two inches of water.

Primarily based on these headlines, you’ll have gotten the impression that the island’s ice sheet had gone right into a demise spiral of melting. In actuality, though the long-term development stays fairly severe, to date this summer season snow has truly saved the day in Greenland.

With out quesiton, the July 28th occasion was monumental. About 340,000 sq. miles of the floor of the Greenland Ice Sheet — 54 % — skilled melting. That is an space barely larger than California, Oregon and Washington mixed.

The 2 maps on the high of this graphic present the extent of floor melting (in pink) on the Greenland Ice Sheet on July 19 (left) and July 28 (proper). The underside map reveals common air strain for July 27 to 29, 2021. The large distinction between low strain (blue and purple) on the left and excessive strain (pink) on the suitable helped produce an atmospheric river of heat air that drove the second bout of melting on July 28. (Credit score: PROMICE and Nationwide Snow and Ice Knowledge Middle )

All instructed, 12.5 billion tons of ice melted and ran off into the ocean throughout that one occasion, in response to the Nationwide Snow and Ice Knowledge Middle. And it was not the primary huge melting spike this summer season. One other occurred 9 days earlier, when about 40 % of the ice sheet floor melted.

However there was one thing that information retailers just like the Guardian didn’t report regarding these occasions, one thing that may have offered a extra nuanced image. Due to copious snowfall earlier in the summertime, the ice under had been shielded from melting by way of a lot of the soften season. In consequence, up till the 2 huge melting spikes in July, the Greenland Ice Sheet had truly gained ice throughout 2021.

The extent of floor melting on the Greenland Ice Sheet by way of mid-August 2021 is charted right here in blue. The second-tallest spike corresponds to about 270,000 sq. miles of floor melting. The very tallest blue spike information what occurred on July 28: about 340,000 sq. miles of floor melting. For comparability, the orange line reveals what occurred in 2012. (Credit score: NSIDC)

Because the NSIDC explains it, the snow blunted the potential affect of the 2 melting spikes “by limiting the publicity of naked ice and lowering runoff.”

Furthermore, the day by day price of ice loss (scientists name it “ablation”) on July 28th wasn’t the worst ever seen. It ranked as third worst. On July 11, 2012, 12.9 billion tons had been misplaced, making that occasion the second worst on report. The very best day by day loss occurred on July 31, 2019, when 16.1 billion tons of Greenland’s ice melted.

The underside line is that this: As of August 11th, when the NSIDC printed particulars of the soften season up to now, Greenland had misplaced a variety of ice, however the web runoff was truly under common for that point of 12 months.

The Massive Image

Extra vital than what occurs on any given summer season day in Greenland is the long-term development — and that’s very regarding.

Between 1992 and 2020, the Greenland Ice Sheet misplaced about 4,890 gigatons of ice (and maybe as a lot as 5,640 gigatons), in response to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Local weather Change. “Giga” is a billion, so this implies about 5 trillion tons of Greenland’s ice cap was misplaced to the ocean simply throughout that interval, contributing a few half inch to rising seas.

Sea degree rise from all sources — melting ice from Greenland, Antarctica, and glaciers world wide, plus enlargement of ocean water because it has heated up — is already inflicting massive issues in lots of coastal areas.

For instance, in Bangladesh, a rustic smaller than Illinois that is residence to 165 million individuals, monsoon rains in 2020 precipitated flooding so dangerous that a few quarter of the nation was underwater firstly of June. All instructed, 1.9 million individuals had been displaced from their houses throughout the monsoon season, in response to the Worldwide Displacement Monitoring Centre. Each sea degree rise, and the tendency of storms to hold extra water because the local weather warms, had been main contributors to this catastrophe.

In fact, Bangladesh is not the one nation experiencing severe impacts from sea degree rise together with wetter storms. For instance, Hurricane Sandy precipitated mayhem up and down the East Coast in 2012. In New York Metropolis, the storm flooded all subway tunnels underneath the East River, and all highway tunnels however one into Manhattan. All instructed, damages from Sandy have been estimated at $60 billion. Analysis printed this 12 months reveals that about $eight billion of that whole is attributable to sea degree rise from human-caused local weather change. And flooding affected 71,000 extra people who it might have in any other case.

If the whole Greenland Ice Sheet had been to soften, sea degree would rise about 20 ft, in response to the NSIDC. And if the Antarctic Ice Sheet melted, sea degree would rise by about 200 ft.

To this point, the catastrophes we have seen with a lot much less sea degree rise have been dangerous sufficient — a indisputable fact that argues for swift and deep cuts to emissions of the greenhouse gases which can be heating up our planet.


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