Greenland’s Big Melt Down

Image: Vaido Otsar via Wikimedia Commons

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

Greenland, whose ice sheet is melting rapidly, saw temperatures rise over 70 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday, melting enough ice to cover the state of Florida in two inches of water. International climate experts are now calling Greenland’s ice sheets a “ground zero” for “cascading climate impacts across the planet.”

Additionally, melting Arctic ice is also leaking “forever chemicals” into our oceans as PFAS settles there after being released into the atmosphere.

Why This Matters: Temperatures in the Arctic are increasing two to three times faster than in the rest of the world, and glaciers and ice sheets are now melting at breakneck speeds. This melting raises sea levels, deprives animals of critical habitats, eliminates freshwater sources, and, in some cases, can directly kill people. 

Greenland’s melting ice sheets alone have contributed to a 14mm rise in global sea levels and, if melted completely, could raise global sea levels by 23 feet. Those results would devastate coastal and inland communities across the globe, but Greenland can’t stop the ice melt alone. In addition to its efforts, it will need the global community to save the ice sheets.

Rising Waters: According to Polar Portal, which represents Danish Arctic research institutions, although this year’s meeting is still trailing 2019’s in terms of gigatons, the overall surface area shedding water has grown. Experts say this may be caused by an increase in rainfall over the ice sheets that initiates melt, increases runoff, and prevents refreeze. As weather and temperature continue to change, the area of melt will only grow larger and begin to release some gnarly chemicals into the rising waters.

Harmful PFAS often makes its way into the environment through solid plastic pollution in our oceans or lands.

The changing nature of sea ice, with earlier and erratic periods of thaw, could be altering the processing and release of pollutants alongside key nutrients, which in turn affects biota at the base of the marine food web,” said environmental chemist Crispin Halsall from Lancaster University in the U.K.

Greenland has recently taken drastic action to end any fossil fuel expansion in its waters. The nation hopes that investing in renewable energy can preserve its ice sheets and stimulate its economy. However, rising temperatures in the Arctic can only be stopped with the action of some of the world’s largest emitters, and U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry said Tuesday that he’s “not confident” the world is moving fast enough to prevent further catastrophe.

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