Greenland has lost 2 billion tons ice in one day. More than two gigatonnes of ice melted Thursday in Greenland, according to estimates by the institute responsible for monitoring the ice cover of this Danish territory.
One gigatonne (Gt) is equivalent to one billion tonnes and this melting has affected 40% of the territory. Although these figures are unusual in this month of June, they are not unpublished. Normally, melting of snow and ice extends from June to August, with a peak in July. These alarming data could announce a record summer for 2019.
The results of a study unveiled last April showed that in the 1970s, Greenland gained 47 gigatonnes of ice a year on average (Gt / year), before losing an equivalent volume in the 1980s. Melting continues at this rate in the 1990s, before a sharp acceleration from the 2000s (187 Gt / year) and especially since 2010 (286 Gt / year).
The Greenland ice sheet has been melting at a breakneck speed, four times faster than in 2003, according to a study published in the Pnas. Most alarming is that the south-west of the island is particularly concerned by this accelerated loss of ice, whereas this region should not have deteriorated so quickly because it is practically free of glaciers. According to the researchers, melting due to overall temperature increases, especially during the summer, occurs inland. The resulting rivers then flow to the ocean.
The break-up of glaciers, forming icebergs, was considered one of the most important contributors to rising sea levels. “But now we are identifying a second major problem: more and more ice masses will disappear in the form of meltwater”, increasing the level of the oceans and the risks for the coasts and the island states, warns Michael Bevis from Ohio State University and first author of a study that was published earlier this year.
The ice melts there six times faster today than in the 1980s, say the researchers. The glaciers of Greenland alone would have helped raise the level of the oceans by 13.7 millimeters since 1972.