Enough ice was melted in Greenland on Tuesday to cover the whole US state of Florida in two inches of water, scientists have warned.
Rising temperatures in the Arctic have resulted in the autonomous Danish territory seeing significant melting, with temperatures rising to23C as high as Constable Pynt this week.
According to Polar Portal, which represents Danish Arctic research institutions studying the Greenland ice sheet and sea ice, there was a “massive melting event in Greenland” as a result that “would be enough to cover Florida with two inches of water”.
There is also growing evidence that rainfall is increasing at the expense of snow in Greenland, with complicated implications for ice melt.
Rain adds to mass but refreezing in the snow warms the snowpack.
Massive melting event in Greenland. While not as extreme as in 2019 in terms of gigatons (left image – but still would be enough to cover Florida with two inches of water), the area over which melting takes place (right image) is even a bit larger than two years ago. pic.twitter.com/rEeDIlYTA7— Polar Portal (@PolarPortal) July 29, 2021
Earlier this month the government of Greenland suspended all oil exploration off the world’s largest island, calling it is “a natural step” because it “takes the climate crisis seriously”.
No oil has been found yet around Greenland, but officials there had seen potentially vast reserves as a way to help Greenlanders realise their long-held dream of independence from Denmark by cutting the annual subsidy of 3.4 billion kroner (£390 million) the territory receives.
Global warming means retreating ice could uncover potential oil and mineral resources which could dramatically change the fortunes of the semi-autonomous territory of 57,000 people.
“The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect we have much more to gain,” the Greenland government said in a statement, adding that it “wants to take co-responsibility for combating the global climate crisis”.
The decision was made on June 24 but was made public on Thursday.
The US Geological Survey estimates there could be 17.5 billion undiscovered barrels of oil and 148 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off Greenland, although the island’s remote location and harsh weather have limited exploration.
The current government has been led by the Inuit Ataqatigiit party since April’s parliamentary election, and it immediately began to deliver on election promises and stopped plans for uranium mining in southern Greenland.
Greenland still has four active hydrocarbon exploration licences, which it is obliged to maintain as long as the licensees are actively exploring. They are held by two small companies.
The government’s decision to stop oil exploration was welcomed by environmental group Greenpeace, which called the decision ”fantastic”.
“And my understanding is that the licences that are left have very limited potential,” said Mads Flarup Christensen, Greenpeace Nordic’s general secretary.
Denmark decides foreign, defence and security policy, and supports Greenland with the annual grant that accounts for about two-thirds of the Arctic island’s economy.