Greenland's ice Melting 4 times faster than expected
The Inuits are on the run from global warming
Heatwave in Alaska +++ 2019 breaks all records +++ Residents have to flee
In Alaska, the consequences of global warming are directly felt. Peaks of up to 17 degrees are like a heat wave in the northwesternmost US state. The year 2019 is well on its way to breaking all records. Not only is the ice cover of the oceans less, but also the ice of the lakes and on the ground does not become as thick and melts faster. Since the soil is rather exposed, the frost in the soil, the so-called permafrost, can also thaw more quickly. Whole villages of the inhabitants, also called Inuit, have to be resettled.
Across Alaska, March temperatures averaged 11 degrees Celsius above normal. The deviation was most extreme in the Arctic where, on March 30, thermometers rose almost 22 degrees Celsius above normal—to 3 degrees.Alaska residents accustomed to subzero temperatures are experiencing a heatwave of sorts that is shattering records, with the thermometer jumping to more than 30 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in some regions.
Whole villages have to resettle; in Napakiak, a small village in the southwest of Alaska, the effects of global warming are immediately apparent. The old school is under water and the new school building can soon no longer be used. Global warming is making it even harder to reach remote villages and the Inuit fishing and hunting grounds. Because of the higher temperatures, it is no longer safe to navigate icy rivers that were previously used as traffic routes. The ice no longer lasts.
On April 15,three people, including an 11-year-old girl, died after their snowmobiles plunged through thin ice on the Noatak River in far northwestern Alaska. Earlier in the winter, 700 kilometers south, on the lower Kuskokwim River, at least five people perished in separate incidents when their snowmobiles and abnormally thin ice was a common denominator. In sparsely populated interior Alaska, frozen rivers are indispensable for transporting goods, visiting family and delivering kids to school.
From a bigger picture
The pace of ice loss has increased four times since 2003 as enormous glaciers are depositing ever larger chunks of ice into the Atlantic ocean.
According to a new study, Greenland's ice is melting faster than scientists previously predicted.
According to the study's lead author, Michael Bevis, a geoscientist at Ohio State University, Greenland, the world's largest island, appears to have reached a critical point around 2002-2003, when the ice melt accelerated rapidly. By 2012, the annual ice melt had reached an "unprecedented level" and was almost four times higher than in 2003.
Data collected by NASA's GRACE satellites and GPS stations scattered around the Greenland coast showed that between 2002 and 2016, the country lost about 280 billion tonnes of ice per year. This average annual melt is sufficient to cover the states of Florida and New York with meltwater to the hips, and completely submerge the American capital of Washington and one or two other small states.
According to a study published on January 14, the continent is losing six times more ice than it did 40 years ago. On average, over the past decade, it has lost 252 billion tonnes of ice each year. https://www.pnas.org/content/116/4/1095
The same is true for glaciers in western North America, where ice melt has quadrupled since the early 2000s, reaching 12.3 billion tonnes per year, according to a recent study. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2018GL080942
What are the causes of the ice melting?
The main cause of this significant melting of the world's ice is the 1°C increase in global temperatures.
In Greenland, researchers have found that global warming, combined with a negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation, results in a faster surface melting of the ice sheet in summer. The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is an irregular and natural change in atmospheric pressure. When the latter is in a negative phase, it brings warm and sunny summer weather to the western part of Greenland. Michael Bevis pointed out that although before 2000, the phenomenon had not caused any significant ice melt, since then, with the negative phase of NAO, significant increases in the level of melting have been observed.
To melt, the Greenland ice sheet only needs a surface temperature of 1°C and sunlight. "It was rare to have temperatures above 0°C on the ice sheet before, but this is no longer the case," says Michael Bevis. Each degree above 1°C doubles the amount of ice that melts.
There is no frontier for climate change, neither for actions.