Scientists say this year could be another annus horribilis for the Arctic with record temperatures already registered in Greenland — a giant melting icicle that threatens to submerge the world’s coastal areas.
“It’s possible that we could break the records set in 2012 for both lowest Arctic sea ice extent ... and for record high Greenland ice sheet melt,” said Ruth Mottram, a climatologist at the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI). “It is very much dependent on weather conditions this year.”
A striking photograph of the early ice melt taken last week by a DMI scientist in northwestern Greenland has gone viral.
Photo: Reuters / Danish Meteorological Institute / Steffen Olsen
While researching oceanographic moorings and a weather station, Steffen Olsen took a photograph of his sled dogs pushing through a fjord, the sea ice submerged under several centimeters of meltwater.
Under a bright blue sky, with a snow-free mountain in the background, the dogs appear to be walking on water.
“The picture is striking ... because it really visualizes how the Arctic is changing,” Mottram said.
Locals who accompanied Olsen’s expedition “didn’t expect the sea ice to start melting that early. They usually take that route because the ice is very thick, but they had to turn back because the water was deeper and deeper, and they couldn’t” advance, she said.
On Wednesday last week, the day before the photograph was taken, the closest weather station, in Qaanaaq, registered temperatures of 17.3°C, just 0.3°C lower than the record set on June 30, 2012.
“There was a dry winter and then recently [there has been] warm air, clear skies and sun — all preconditions for an early melting,” Mottram said.
As the atmosphere heats up, the phenomenon is expected to accelerate, changing the way of life for the local population — who will see shorter hunting seasons on the ice on which they depend for their survival — as well as an altered ecosystem.
The number of polar bears in the Arctic has decreased by about 40 percent in the past decade due the shrinking ice, according to the US Geological Survey.
Narwhals — whales with a large unicorn-like tusk, found in the Arctic — are seeing their natural ice shelter from their main predator, killer whales, dwindle.
The melting sea ice is one thing, but it is the melting of the ice sheet and glaciers that has a direct impact on rising sea levels worldwide.
Greenland’s “Summit Station,” located at an altitude of 3,000m, on April 30 recorded the warmest temperature in its history, at minus-1.2°C, the DMI said.
On Monday, Greenland lost 3.7 billion tonnes of ice in a single day, it said.
Since early this month, 37 billion tonnes of ice have melted, said Xavier Fettweis, a climatologist at the University of Liege in Belgium.
“It becomes more and more likely that a record of mass loss will be broken for the month of June in 2019,” he wrote on Twitter.
Also a concern is how early in the year the ice is melting.
Danish meteorologists announced the ice melting season had begun at the start of last month, almost a month earlier than usual.
The ice melt has only begun before early last month once — in 2016 — since data began being collected in 1980.
“The start of the melt season occurs on the first of three consecutive days where more than 5 percent of the ice sheet has melted at the surface,” scientist Peter Langen said on the Web site polarportal.dk, which collects data from several Danish scientific institutions in the Arctic.
Greenland’s ice melt contributes about 0.7mm per year to rising sea levels, an amount that could increase further if the ice melt continues at the current rate.
Since 1972, Greenland’s melting glaciers have contributed to a 13.7mm increase in sea levels.
A study published in April in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that Greenland’s ice loss since the 1980s has accelerated dramatically since the 2000s, and especially since 2010.
The ice is melting six times faster now than in the 1980s.
The forecasts are alarming.
In 2014, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast in its worst-case scenario that by the end of this century, sea levels would be almost 1m higher than what they were between 1986 and 2005.
THE ANSWER? The drug uses neutralizing antibodies produced by the human immune system, which the team isolated from the blood of 60 recovered patients A Chinese laboratory has been developing a drug it believes has the power to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to a halt. A drug being tested by scientists at Peking University could not only shorten the recovery time for those infected, but even offer short-term immunity from the coronavirus, researchers said. Sunney Xie (謝曉亮), director of the university’s Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, said that the drug had been successful in animal testing. “When we injected neutralizing antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500,” Xie said. “That means this potential drug has [a]
‘SERIOUS QUESTIONS’: Three US senators sent a letter to the US commerce secretary asking whether the project ‘takes into consideration national security requirements’ US Senator Chuck Schumer and two other Democratic colleagues have written to top US administration officials asking for details of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd’s (TSMC) plan to build a US$12 billion fab in Arizona. Hsinchu-based TSMC on Thursday last week announced that it would build a plant to make 5 nanometer chips by 2024 that would have the capacity to produce 20,000 semiconductor wafers per month. The world’s biggest contract chipmaker already has one chipmaking fab in Camas, Washington, and design centers in Austin, Texas, and San Jose, California. It said it planned to start construction in Arizona next year and
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
MOM’S LONG CAMPAIGN: Mao Yin had been brought up in Mianyang, Sichuan Province, without any idea that he was the target of a decades-long, high-profile search A Chinese man who was stolen from his family as a toddler has been reunited with his parents after 32 years. Mao Yin (毛寅), then two-and-a-half years old, was snatched in 1988 when he was walking home from nursery with his father. His parents finally embraced him again on Monday in Xian, where he was born. After Mao vanished, his mother Li Jingzhi (李靜芝) quit her job and launched a decades-long search for her son, that included sending out more than 100,000 flyers and appearing on numerous TV shows. That long campaign helped 29 other families find their own missing children and made