Sudden ice melt making Greenland finally live up to its name

Three NASA satellites reveal unprecedented melting over four days over a widespread area in Greenland.

Nicolo E. DiGirolamo, SSAI/NASA GSFC, and Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory/AP
Measurements from three satellites showed that on July 8 (right) about 40 percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days (July 12), an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed. The areas classified as “probable melt” (light pink) correspond to those sites where at least one satellite detected surface melting. The areas classified as “melt” (dark pink) correspond to sites where two or three satellites detected surface melting.

Scientists say there has been a freak event in Greenland this month: Nearly every part of the massiveice sheet that blankets the island suddenly started melting.

Even Greenland's coldest place showed melting. Records show that last happened in 1889 and occurs about once every 150 years.

NASA says three satellites saw what it calls unprecedented melting over four days beginning July 8. Most of the thick ice remains. But what was unusual was that the melting occurred over a widespread area.

NASA says the melting area went from 40 percent of the ice sheet to 97 percent. Until now, the most extensive melt seen by satellites in the past 30 years was about 55 percent.

Scientists cannot say yet if the melting is from global warming or natural.

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