The surface of Greenland turned to slush earlier this year. Satellite data shows that a warm spell melted nearly the entire surface of the nation’s ice cap. The melt is unusual: normally about half of the ice sheet melts at the surface during summer, mostly at low elevations.
This year the thaw was stunningly swift and widespread, and extended high up the nation’s peaks.
On 8 July, 40 per cent of the ice surface was wet; by 12 July, the fraction of wet ice had soared to 97 per cent (see image). The snowpack turned to slush even at the 3.2-kilometre-high Summit Station, at the apex of Greenland’s ice sheet.
Nonetheless, climatologists say there is no cause for immediate concern. Long-term ice core records show that ice at Summit Station melts about once every 150 years, so widespread melting in one year is not entirely unusual. What would be troubling is if it were to happen again within a decade – this would threaten the stability of the ice sheet. Learn more here, here, here or here.