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Greenland’s Ice Sheet Sees Alarming Meltdown

First Posted: Apr 16, 2016 04:50 AM EDT

Greenland's ice sheet saw an almost 12 percent meltdown on Monday, according to data released by the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI). The amount of ice melt is not only abnormal but also taking place a month before its usual occurrence.

The scientists who made the report were taken aback by the discovery. According to Peter Langen, a climate scientist at DMI, the researchers had to recheck and ensure that their models were still working properly. Previous reports state that meltdowns that cover more than 10 percent area usually happen in May; however, none at the scale that is being witnessed now.

According to the DMI report, warm air that advanced from the southwest, which brought rain in its wake to the coast, was a factor driving the ice melt. The situation is akin to one observed in 2012, when 95 percent of the ice sheet surface experienced melt; however, even then, the melt wasn't as early or extensive as the one noticed on Monday.

"It is a very unusual situation, especially so early in the year, with very cold air and deep low pressures system to the west and east of Greenland and very warm air forming a 'cap' over the island," said Martin Stendel, DMI climate scientist. "This helped to force a frontal system with very warm air up the west coast bringing rain over the ice sheet."

In normal conditions, rainfall and ice sheet melt water usually encounter snow and start to refreeze during this time of the year. As per researchers, the early meltdown is the latest example of accelerated global warming and its impact in recent years. 2015 was the hottest year ever in recorded history, and the Arctic experienced its mildest winters as per data released by NASA.  The Arctic sea ice reached an all time recorded low of 5.607 million square miles during winter.

A NASA funded report published in November last year stated that Greenland's giant glacier situated on the northeast part of the country, called Zachariæ Isstrøm, was melting at such an accelerated pace that it could lead to a continuous rise in sea level for years into the future.

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