Even though it’s summer in Greenland, it’s still fucking cold. The Greenland ice sheet has been in place for many, many summers, and usually there’s only a little bit of surface thawing. But in the span of four days, Greenland has gone from 40% surface thawing, which is about normal, to a staggering 97% .
In a statement posted on Nasa’s website on Tuesday, scientists admitted the satellite data was so striking they thought at first there had to be a mistake.
“This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?” Son Nghiem of Nasa’s jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena said in the release.
He consulted with several colleagues, who confirmed his findings. Dorothy Hall, who studies the surface temperature of Greenland at Nasa’s space flight centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, confirmed that the area experienced unusually high temperatures in mid-July, and that there was widespread melting over the surface of the ice sheet.
Climatologists Thomas Mote, at the University of Georgia, and Marco Tedesco, of the City University of New York, also confirmed the melt recorded by the satellites.
However, scientists were still coming to grips with the shocking images on Tuesday. “I think it’s fair to say that this is unprecedented,” Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told the Guardian.
The set of images released by Nasa on Tuesday show a rapid thaw between 8 July and 12 July. Within that four-day period, measurements from three satellites showed a swift expansion of the area of melting ice, from about 40% of the ice sheet surface to 97%.
Zwally, who has made almost yearly trips to the Greenland ice sheet for more than three decades, said he had never seen such a rapid melt.
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