Greenland saw a staggering melt of its ice sheet in July amid an unrelenting heat wave, producing enough water to cover all of Florida by several inches, researchers said Friday.
The semi-autonomous Danish territory, which has 82% of its surface covered in ice, lost 197 billion metric tons of ice in July, Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist with the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), tweeted Friday.
That’s about three times the 60-70 billion metric tons the DMI would normally expect to lose in July, Mottram added.
The melt comes as the record-setting heat wave in Europe moved over the Arctic island, forming a dome of warmth over the world’s second-largest ice sheet.
Martin Stendel, another DMI researcher, noted that the melt from just the last two days of July amounts to the equivalent of nearly 5 inches of water covering the entire state of Florida.
Mark Serreze, the director of the Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, told The Associated Press that this year marks the island’s second-biggest melt area since 1981, when researchers started keeping such records. 2012 still has the record with nearly 90% of the island’s ice affected, but there’s still a month left in Greenland’s 2019 melt season.
Petteri Taalas, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization issued a firm statement about this melt’s significance.
“This is not science fiction,” he said. “It is the reality of climate change. It is happening now and it will worsen in the future without urgent climate action.”
In some instances, the melt has resulted in powerful rushes of water, offering a tangible look at the forces behind sea-level rise. Laurie Garrett, a journalist and author covering global health threats, shared shocking footage of one of those water flows on Twitter.
The reports out of Greenland coincide with news from Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service that July was either the globe’s hottest month on record or tied with July 2016 for that title. The group expects to have a formal report on the month’s temperature available Monday.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said at a press briefing Thursday that he expects 2015 to 2019 will be the five hottest years on record.
“If we do not take action on climate change now, these extreme weather events are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “And that iceberg is also rapidly melting.”