The Greenland ice sheet

What happens when there’s nothing left to melt?

In years past, when it rained near Greenlander Toennes Berthelsen’s family camp, water would flood down as the mountain top ice melted, creating rivers where there usually are none.

Last week, when it rained there, there was no river at all.

“It was heavy raining, but we couldn’t see any flood coming down,” Berthelsen said. The ice cap at the top of the mountain was completely gone.

It’s been exceptionally warm in Greenland this year.

Now, the same heat dome that cooked Europe is forecast to raise temperatures in Greenland into the 70s Fahrenheit on parts of the coast, and the ice sheet is in the midst of one of its most extreme melts on record, said Xavier Fettweis, a climate researcher at the University of Liège. On July 30 and 31, more than half of the ice sheet had at least some melting at the surface, Denmark’s research institutions reported on Polar Portal.

“The current melt rate is equivalent to what the model projects for 2070, using the most pessimistic model,” Fettweis said. That melting has global implications—if Greenland’s ice sheet were to melt entirely, it would result in about 20 feet of global sea level rise.

Again, it looks as if it’s all going to happen a lot faster than was predicted.

Both Fettweis and Mottram said the extreme melt happening now is something that climate models have not done a good job accounting for.

“By mid to end of the century is when we should be seeing these melt levels—not right now,” Mottram said. “[The models] are clearly not able to capture some of these important processes.”

Keep a packed bag by the door.

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