One of the world’s coldest places is warming


Global warming is spiking in one of the world’s coldest places, atop the 2-mile thick ice sheet in central Greenland.

The ice sheet has been the warmest on record in at least 1,000 years.

The findings, published recently in Nature, a science journal, are based on some of the most detailed ice core sampling ever done in the region.

By measuring chemical traces in the ice, scientists were able to determine that for the years 2001 to 2011, the temperature in the study area was 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than the 20th century average.

The findings, said Thomas Laepple, a climate researcher in Germany and a co-author of the study, provides “clear evidence” that the effects of global warming have reached the remote, high-elevation areas of central-north Greenland.

The Greenland Ice Sheet is larger than Alaska, covering about 660,000 square miles, and if it keeps melting at the current pace, it would raise global sea level by about 20 inches by 2100, adding to the growing flooding woes in coastal communities.

A 2022 study showed that the melting ice sheet will add at least 10 inches of sea level rise by the end of the century, no matter what climate actions are taken in the near future.

The study provides valuable new information that can help people vulnerable to sea level rise adapt in the decades ahead, said Jason Box, a Greenland Ice Sheet expert with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland who was not involved with the research.

“We should be very concerned about North Greenland warming because that region has a dozen sleeping giants in the form of wide tidewater glaciers and an ice stream,” he said.

Awakening those giants will “ramp up” Greenland’s contribution to sea level rise. The study’s finding of a quickly steepening trend line reinforces the understanding of how industrialization has driven warming, he said.

While warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius may not sound like much in one of the world’s ice boxes, there are other ominous signs of change.

In 2012, following what the new study identified as the warmest decade on record in Greenland, there was a super-melt event, with surface melting across about 97 percent of the island’s ice for several days.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center called the 2012 melting “intense,” noting that the melt season lasted two months longer than usual, and that for the first time in the satellite record that stretches back to 1979, “the entire ice sheet experienced melt at some point in the season.”

There have been several other extreme melting events since then.

And there don’t seem to be any signs the warming is slowing down at the top of the Greenland Ice Sheet, said Ingo Sasgen, another of the study’s co-authors.

This article comes from our partner, Inside Climate News, the Pulitzer prize-winning nonprofit, independent news organization that covers climate, energy and the environment.