Thank Pete for scientists. They keep a pretty good tab on the sea ice up in the Arctic. This is a very bookmarkable link (graphs galore). In the late spring there is as much as 15 million square kilometers of sea ice caused by the annual blackout of the Earth's rotation during the northern hemisphere's winter. By the beginning of Autumn, there can be as little as 3 million square kilometers of sea ice due to the sun's exposure to the tilted Earth. 3 million is now the new normal.
As of July 17, the amount of Arctic Sea Ice is below 5 million square kilometers which is earlier than any time before in recorded history. By way of comparison, years 1979 and 1985 spent 45 days (as opposed to 9 days) going from 6 mil sq. K. down to 5 mil. sq.K.
Well, the big problem is that we are well blow the mean ice coverage for this time of year. According to the Arctic Ice blog, we are more than 2 million square miles of ice melt below the mean set between 1979 and 2008. This is the ice melt reality in northern Greenland:
In Greenland, it has been very hot over the inland ice in comparison to normal conditions. On July 11th at 15 UTC the recorded temperature at the Summit Camp weather station, which is located at the ice cap's highest altitude (3200 metres), was 2.2 degrees Celsius. That is quite high for this height, particularly in light of the fact that ice has a relatively high albedo.From Ben Linhoff at Scientific American
Just 2.2 °C doesn't sound like much (although it looks to be a new record for July), until one realises that we are talking Summit Camp here. At an altitude of 3200 metres. In the middle of the Greenland ice sheet. Nothing but ice.
3.5 million liters of water pressed through the narrow river every second. It's almost a doubling of previous records. It's no wonder that a 20 ton wheel loader was torn away from the bridge in Kangerlussuaq like a toy.
The Greenland Ice Sheet is the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen. Looking out over its seemingly endless expanse of white, grey, and black textures of crevasses and rolling hills of ice, one feels close to infinity. On my last trail run, I ran to the top of a small mountain surrounded on three sides by the ice sheet. I was wearing running shorts and a tee shirt; the sun was bright and a steady wind coming off the ice kept the mosquitoes away. I sat down on a slab of granitic gneiss and leaned against a warm boulder. The wind was surprisingly balmy and humid, despite having just crossed the Greenland Ice Sheet. I closed my eyes and soaked in the heat and sun. Later that day I reformatted my air temperature graphs from last year’s season to fit the data collected this June. The y-axis had to be expanded by 10 degrees.All it takes is 1.6 degrees Celius to melt all of the Greenland Ice Sheet.
The Greenland ice sheet is likely to be more vulnerable to global warming than previously thought. The temperature threshold for melting the ice sheet completely is in the range of 0.8 to 3.2 degrees Celsius of global warming, with a best estimate of 1.6 degrees above pre-industrial levels, shows a new study by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Today, already 0.8 degrees of global warming has been observed. Substantial melting of land ice could contribute to long-term sea-level rise of several meters and therefore it potentially affects the lives of many millions of people.Of course the debate over exactly how much the Greenland Ice melt will affect sea level rise is in debate. The debate is between the climate change deniers and the scientists. As time plays out, the deniers lose face and the waters rise. Bill McKibben of Rolling Stone and his terrifying new math will look much more favorably to history than Senator James Inhofe and his global warming denialism.