With climate change driving high temperatures in the Arctic, Greenland lost a large amount of ice on Wednesday, which melted enough to cover the state of Florida in 5.1 cm of water, scientists said.
It was the third largest loss of Greenland ice in a single day since 1950. The other two records, also in the last decade, occurred in 2012 and 2019.
The melting was caused by hot air that was trapped over the Arctic island by a change in atmospheric circulation patterns, the scientists said, noting there could be more ice loss.
About 22 gigatons of ice melted on Wednesday, with 12 gigatons flowing into the ocean and 10 gigatons absorbed by the snow cover where it can freeze again, said Xavier Fettweis, a climate scientist at the University of Liege in Belgium.
Polar Portal, a group of Danish Arctic research institutions, described it in a tweet as a “massive thaw event.”
While that volume was less than the record ice melt in a single day in 2019, this week’s event covered a larger area, the group said.
Such events can create feedback loops that drive further warming and melting in Greenland, said Marco Tedesco, a climate scientist at Columbia University.
As the snow melts, it exposes the darker ice or soil below, which absorbs more sunlight rather than reflecting it out of the atmosphere.
Scientists have estimated that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, the second largest on Earth after Antarctica, has caused about 25 percent of the global sea level rise observed in recent decades.
Tedesco and other scientists have warned that the models used to project future ice loss do not capture the impact of changing atmospheric circulation patterns, meaning they may be underestimating the future melting of Greenland, which lies between the Arctic oceans. and Atlantic.