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What Happened to Greenland’s Ice Sheet Last Summer?

If you had been flying over Greenland on the first day of August 2019, you might have glimpsed a sight never before witnessed: the disappearance of 12.5 billion tons of ice. The sudden depletion of ice broke the record ... which had been set only a day before, when 10 billion tons of ice dropped from the land mass. To put that into perspective, the amount of water lost into the ocean over just two days could cover the entire state of Florida with five inches (12.7 cm) of water. Researchers said the high-pressure weather system that caused the enormous depletion also sparked the record heat wave that tormented much of Europe that summer. The average temperature during the July 2019 heat wave raised Greenland's average temperature by as much as 30 degrees F (16.7 °C). According to one climate researcher, the Arctic region is experiencing particularly troublesome effects from global warming, with the pace of rising temperatures double that of the rest of the world.

Cold, hard facts about Arctic ice:

  • Arctic sea ice reflects 80 percent of the sunlight that hits it, but when the ice melts, the ocean absorbs about 90 percent of the sunlight.
  • Scientific measurements over the past 30 years have shown a drastic decline in both the thickness and extent of summer sea ice.
  • Sea ice is critical to life in the Arctic; cod eat algae and other organisms in the ice; seals eat the cod, and polar bears subsist on the seals.
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