The surface ice covering Greenland has started melting at a remarkable rate this month, according to satellite imagery from NASA. In a normal summer, about half of Greenland’s icy surface will naturally experience some melting, but this year all but three percent of the ice sheet has thawed, and over a very short period of time. Satellite images from July 8 showed about 40% of the surface ice had melted; but July 12, that amount had jumped to 97%.
Researchers are still working to figure out whether this massive melt will contribute to rising sea levels. “Satellite observations are helping us understand how events like these may relate to one another as well as to the broader climate system,” explained NASA’s cryosphere program manager, Tom Wagner.
Whether or not this sudden melt is another side-effect of climate change or just part of the earth’s natural cycle remains to be seen: according to Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist, these kinds of melting events occur about every 150 years, and this one is right on schedule. “But,” she adds, “if we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome.”