Greenland Undergoing Record 120 Year Surface Melt, 97 Percent of Ice Sheet Experienced Melt on July 12, 2012


According to NASA satellite data, almost all of the surface of Greenland experienced surface melt during an unprecedented heat wave in mid-July. Such an event has never happened in the entire 30 year satellite record. In fact, one has to go back to ice core data to find an analogous period. According to that data, the last time melt of this scale occurred was during the summer of 1889, about 123 years ago.

A parade of unprecedented heat waves is the likely cause. A series of heat domes has been developing over Greenland since early May, with each successive hot air mass showing greater intensity. The most recent dome began to develop over Greenland on July 8th. It intensified through the 12th and began to dissipate a few days later. During the most recent event, almost all of the ice sheet experienced surface melting. Even Summit Station, located at the ice sheet’s highest point atop two miles of solid ice, experienced extensive melting.

The record heat and melting coincided with a massive calving event at Petermann Glacier, which also occurred in mid July. This calving produced an ice burg larger than Manhattan which is slowly working its way into the world’s shipping lanes. A similar event in 2010 produced an ice burg of equivalent size and resulted in the Petermann Glacier speeding up by between 10 and 20 percent. Increasing outflow from the Petermann Glacier means more of Greenland’s ice is heading to sea at a more rapid pace. Though it is unclear how much the Glacier could speed up following the most recent calving, researchers expect another increase, possibly greater than that brought on by the 2010 event.


Increased melt in Greenland coincides with temperatures that are 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the climatological average, CO2 concentrations that have breached 400 ppm in some locations, and an overall reduced albedo that has harmed the ice sheet’s ability to reflect sunlight. All these impacts are the direct result of human greenhouse gas emissions and their forcing effect on the world’s climate. Furthermore, the extreme heating events now impacting Greenland are far more likely to continue and worsen so long as human-caused warming continues.


Leave a comment


  1. With Vast Glaciers Undergoing Collapse, Sea Level Rise to Flood More Than 1,500 of Indonesia’s Islands, Capital City Over Next 50 Years | robertscribbler
  2. 2012 Record Challenged as 40% of the Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melts on June 17th | robertscribbler

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: