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Greenland’s rapid melting is a hugely underplayed story

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NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT – The announcement that 11 billion tons dropped off the Greenland ice sheet in one day turned out to be a made-for-television example of the effects of climate change. Dramatic videos of water pouring off the glaciers went viral. But apart from the occasional spectacular image, it’s hard to focus the attention of the news media on the Greenland ice sheet. And that’s too bad.

Because it’s worse than you thought.

Consider: According to NASA’s National Snow & Ice Data Center, between June 11 and June 20 of this year, the Greenland ice sheet lost an estimated 80 billion tons of ice. That’s an average of 8 billion tons every 24 hours for 10 days, a record warming event. But there was hardly a whisper of news coverage, perhaps because there weren’t any exciting videos.

Maybe the old cliche is true after all: A picture is worth a thousand words. After all, the Greenland ice sheet has been melting for decades. The tough part is getting people to pay attention.

In northeast Greenland the sheet is vanishing even faster than climate models predict. Recent research has shown that the most rapid melt is in southwest Greenland, where the glaciers by and large don’t terminate in the sea. This result, which took many climate scientists by surprise, tends to confirm rising temperatures rather than changing ocean currents as the cause.

Yes, it’s possible that Greenland’s ice sheet actually grew slightly in 2017. It’s also possible that snowfall in 2017 and 2018 roughly balanced the mass of ice loss. But before climate-change skeptics bombard me with snide told-ya-so’s, bear in mind these are only possibilities.........

© The Japan Times