Greenland Ice Sheet's "Extreme Melt Event" Shatters Temperature Records, Stuns Scientists

Greenland Ice Sheet's "Extreme Melt Event" Shatters Temperature Records, Stuns Scientists

The Greenland ice sheet covers most of the country: about 656,000 square miles in total. But it's quickly disappearing. In fact, the ice sheet is melting so quickly that, at first, the scientists who measure it assumed their recent data was wrong.

Seasonal melt is normal in Greenland: Parts of the ice sheet melt each spring and then freeze again when the weather gets cold. But lately the melt has been starting earlier and reaching higher levels than normal, Slate reported. This year, when climate scientists at the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) began to measure the seasonal melt, the data was unlike anything they had ever seen before.

"We had to check that our models were still working properly," climate scientist Peter Langen told Polar Portal. But they were. 

"Almost 12% of the Greenland ice sheet had more than 1 mm of melt on Monday," Polar Portal reported, "smashing" the past records for ice melt. Slate reports that Greenland has seen a similar melt in the past — but that was in July.

Temperatures were also much higher than normal for April. "Thermometers on and around the ice showed temperatures as high as 64 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday — more than 35 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year," Slate reported.

So what does this mean for Greenland? There's a possibility that the weather will cool again in the coming weeks and some of the melt will refreeze, but climate scientists will be keeping a close eye on what Polar Portal calls an "unseasonal and rather extreme melt event."

Read more: 7 Global Warming Facts That Even Critics Can't Ignore