Greenland Melting, updates

Not too long ago I pointed out that Prof Jason Box, the ice climatologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, tweeted out the following …

Now that several weeks have passed, where do things stand?

Basically he called it, because this has happened …


It is fascinating that Greenland is one of those places that most people do not know very much about. Take for example these questions – is it independent, how many people live there and what language do they speak. If indeed people do live there (hint, yes they do), then what is the capital, etc…

OK, I’ll look it up for you. Yes, it is independent, it was once under Danish control, but in 2009 it gained complete self-rule. Because of that recent Danish history the official language is of course Danish. The total population is an estimated 56,370, and the capital is Nuuk.

(Wikipedia is your friend).

In fact, here is the capital …

How does the melt compare to previous summer melts?

If you check out the National Snow and Ice Data Center, then you will find that their latest update is this …

That perhaps gives you the impression that nothing like this has ever happened before. That’s because it has all been averaged out.

We have in fact seen melt spikes that are akin to what has just happened, and so here is a better representation of it, also via the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this time previous spikes from 2002, 2012 and 2016 are included …

In other words, we have had previous melt events that are very similar in scope and scale, and melt events of even far greater scope and scale, so why all the fuss?

Basically because it it is a new record for this time of year … but only just.

Clearly from the above you can see that 2012 was the big melt year for Greenland. Seeing this latest spike this early means that 2019 could indeed rival it. At this point in time that’s a “perhaps”, and will very much depend upon the weather over the coming months.

Should we be worried?

The short answer is yes.

What is clear is that many subject matter experts are quite worried about what is happening, and so you might now wonder why. It is true that there is indeed enough frozen water in Greenland to raise sea level by 7.2 meters, but seeing that happen will take centuries and not one summer melt season.

Of far more immediate interest is that what is being observed exceeds the absolute worst case scenario within climate models …

In Context

It’s too early in the season to call it, and yet so far this is indeed very worrying. The implication is that net zero by 2050 may be too little and too late.

Meanwhile, Climate Change, the greatest threat ever faced by our species, hardly merits a mention in the news headlines. That tells you a great deal about our priorities. In the longer view, nobody will remember either Trump or Brexit, but everybody will know about Climate Change.


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