Scientists published a study today that concluded that Greenland’s ice sheet melted at a record rate last summer due not just to the heat generated by general global warming but because of a high pressure area that brought lots of sunshine and warmer days to the region.
The researchers analyzed weather data and found that Greenland experienced 63 summer days ruled by the high pressure system, which is double the normal 28 days of high pressure logged between 1981 and 2010. This fueled the loss of 600 billion tons of water, which is estimated to contribute up to .06 inches of sea level rise globally.
The scientists worry that past predictions for the rate of ice sheet loss in Greenland did not take into consideration the impact high pressure areas could have on the rate of melting. If it speeds up, coastal areas with millions of inhabitants and trillions of dollars worth of real estate could be inundated a lot sooner than expected. Marco Tedesco, a researcher at Columbia University who led the study, told Reuters: “We’re destroying ice in decades that was built over thousands of years. What we do here has huge implications for everywhere else in the world.”
Greenland and Antarctica are home to the world’s largest ice sheets. If all the ice in Greenland melted, sea levels would rise by up to 23 feet.
Researchers say the study on high pressure and accelerated ice melt is further evidence that humans need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels to save coastal communities.