Over the next few days, Greenland is expected to heat up as the weather system that fueled Europe’s second record-smashing heatwave of the summer moves north and west. Scientists are warning of what could be a near-record melt-out across the northern ice sheet’s surface, one that may also impact sea ice surrounding the island.
2019 may go down as an all-time record year for Arctic ice losses on land or at sea, both of which experts say are possible. Years of extreme ice demise like this one are consistent with a pattern of rapid transformation taking place up north due to human-caused climate change.
“This fits in exactly with our expectations of long-term climate change,” Zack Labe, a climate scientist and PhD candidate at the University of California Irvine, said of this year’s ice conditions.
The heat wave currently bearing down on Greenland comes because of the same weather pattern that caused Western Europe to experience its hottest day on record on Thursday. There is a strong, high pressure air mass associated with mild temperatures.
It has already been a bad year for ice in the Arctic. Ruth Mottram, a glaciologist with the Danish Meteorological Institute, said that Greenland saw an unusually dry winter, meaning less new snowfall accumulated than usual.
2012 currently holds the record both for largest individual melt event and largest ice losses in a single year across Greenland. While it’s too early to say for sure, Moon said that “if we see the full extent of the melt event that we expect, we’ll be on course to have an amount of ice loss that might rival or even set a new record” this year.
What happens to the Arctic’s ice—this week, this year, and over the decades to come—will be felt far beyond its melting, receding edges.