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HomeScienceBefore and After Photos Showcase Extent of Greenland Ice Sheet Melting during...

Before and After Photos Showcase Extent of Greenland Ice Sheet Melting during Earth’s Hottest Month on Record


Shocking before-and-after photos reveal how much the Greenland ice sheet melted during the “hottest month ever recorded on Earth.”

Taken on June 14, the first image ever taken by a US satellite shows the Greenland ice sheet just before summer temperatures settled.

Meanwhile, the second image from July 24 shows the same region with substantially less snow cover and patches of “dirty” ice where impurities have been exposed.

According to scientists, snow falls on the Greenland ice sheet each winter and acts as a protective layer for the ice below during the summer.

But experts say higher summer temperatures are reducing the amount of snow and making ice more prone to melting, contributing to sea level rise.

July 24 - Image shows severely reduced ice sheet and

The new images, taken by US Landsat satellites, show the amount of snow covering the Greenland ice sheet.

Scientists have already said July is “virtually certain” to be the world’s hottest month on record, while UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned last month that “the era of global boiling has arrived”. .

The images were taken by Landsat 8 and Landsat 9, two satellites of the US Earth Observation Program, a collaboration between NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

“More than halfway through the 2023 melt season, Greenland has seen a substantial transformation of its snow cover,” NASA said in a statement. blog post.

‘The changes are a result of the increasing warmth of the summer weather that gripped the region in late June.

“That’s when warm southwesterly winds and clear skies significantly increased the amount of ice sheet melt, especially toward the south of the island.”

Ice sheets are sheets of ice that cover a vast expanse of land—more than 20,000 square miles (50,000 square kilometers).

The Greenland Ice Sheet is a vast body of ice that covers 656,000 square miles, which is about 80 percent of Greenland’s area.

It is one of two ice sheets in the world, along with the much larger Antarctic Ice Sheet (5.4 million square miles).

Dr Bethan Davies, a senior lecturer in physical geography at Newcastle University, stressed that recent Landsat images show the amount of snow, not ice, in the region.

The Greenland Ice Sheet (pictured) covers about 656,000 square miles, about 80% of Greenland's area.

The Greenland Ice Sheet (pictured) covers about 656,000 square miles, about 80% of Greenland’s area.

What is an ice cap?

An ice cap is a layer of ice that covers a large area of ​​land—more than 20,000 square miles (50,000 square kilometers).

The two ice sheets on Earth today cover most of Greenland and Antarctica.

During the last ice age, ice sheets also covered much of North America and Scandinavia.

Together, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets contain more than 99 percent of the freshwater ice on Earth.

Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Every winter, it snows on Greenland, and this snow usually remains throughout the summer and acts as a sort of protective shell for the ice mass below.

But warmer summers in recent years have meant that this snow has been melting at lower and lower altitudes, leaving more ice exposed.

When ice is exposed, it can melt and potentially contribute to sea level rise.

“This year, in 2023, the snow melt on the ice sheet surface is higher than the 1981-2010 average,” Dr Davies told MailOnline.

“The more years we have major or excessive melting, the more of the Greenland ice sheet will be lost to the ocean.

“Greenland’s mass loss is increasing, driven by these hot summers with high surface melt.

“This process will increase the contribution of the Greenland ice sheet to sea level rise and reduce the area of ​​the ice sheet.”

The second image, from July 24, shows that the Greenland ice sheet also looks remarkably different: darker and evenly uniform.

It appears almost “dirty” due to the presence of particles, such as black carbon or dust, that have accumulated and are left behind when the snow and ice melt.

In the image, the Frederikshåb Glacier, captured on July 24.  This lobe-shaped glacier flows down from the Greenland ice sheet.

In the image, the Frederikshåb Glacier, captured on July 24. This lobe-shaped glacier flows down from the Greenland ice sheet.

This in itself is also a problem, as darker surfaces absorb more solar energy, further accelerating ice melt in the summer months.

“The snow is brilliant white, while the ice from the glaciers is a duller, bluish-grey,” Dr Davies told MailOnline.

‘In the NASA image there is a lot of dust on the ice and this makes it darker.

“This means that snow reflects more solar energy, while ice absorbs more solar energy, resulting in more melting.”

A third image, taken on July 8, shows the scattered presence of deep blue ‘melt ponds’ – pools of water that form where snow melts and collects in low places.

July 8, 2023: Deep blue 'melt ponds' dot the ice sheet.  These melt ponds form where snow melts and accumulates in low spots.

July 8, 2023: Deep blue ‘melt ponds’ dot the ice sheet. These melt ponds form where snow melts and accumulates in low spots.

In the July 24 image, only a few melt ponds are visible, likely because water had already escaped from the ice sheet or funneled through the ice.

Melting from the Greenland ice sheet has been above average for much of the season, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Over several days in June and July, ice melt was detected across 302,000 square miles of the Greenland ice sheet, up to half of its surface.

Scientists warned earlier this year that the Greenland ice sheet is hotter than ever and will cause global sea levels to rise 20 inches by 2100 if it continues to warm at the same rate.


Global sea levels could rise by as much as 1.2 meters (4 feet) by the year 2300, even if we meet the 2015 Paris climate goals, scientists have warned.

The long-term change will be driven by a melting ice from Greenland to Antarctica that is set to redraw global coastlines.

Rising sea levels threaten cities from Shanghai to London, low-lying swaths of Florida or Bangladesh, and entire nations like the Maldives.

It is vital that we reduce emissions as soon as possible to prevent a further increase, a German-led team of researchers said in a new report.

By the year 2300, the report projected that sea levels would rise between 0.7 and 1.2 metres, even if nearly 200 countries fully met the 2015 Paris Agreement targets.

The targets set by the agreements include reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in the second half of this century.

Ocean levels will rise inexorably because heat-trapping industrial gases already emitted will linger in the atmosphere, melting more ice, he said.

Also, water naturally expands as it warms above four degrees Celsius (39.2 °F).

Every five years of delay beyond 2020 in the peak of global emissions would mean an additional 20 centimeters (8 inches) of sea level rise by 2300.

“Sea level is often reported as a really slow process that you can’t do much about…but the next 30 years really matter,” said lead author Dr. Matthias Mengel of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in Potsdam. Germany.

None of the nearly 200 governments that signed the Paris Agreements is on track to meet its commitments.

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