What does 6 billion tons look like? Imagine an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Now imagine 2.4 million pools. That’s how much water the northwestern ice sheet of Greenland lost – PER DAY – from July 15 – 17 this summer during a melting event. Another way of looking at it: it’s like covering the entire state of West Virginia in the US in a foot of water – in just three days. Why did this happen? Greenland experienced a heat wave – well, a heat wave for Greenland. While in some places the US and Europe have been enduring daily temperatures surpassing 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius), this summer Greenland has been seeing temperatures in the 60s (16 Celsius) when the normal for this time of year is the 40s – 50s Fahrenheit (4 – 10 degrees C).
These kinds of melting events are directly responsible for sea level rise, given this is land-based ice going into the ocean. Soaring temperatures during the summer of 2019 caused Greenland to lose more than 530 billion tons of water. It was the largest loss in a year since record-keeping began in 1948, causing the global sea levels to rise 1.5 millimeters. Time will tell how much will be added this summer, in total. If this rise doesn’t sound like a lot, think about how it only takes a slight change in temperature for you to register a fever and feel unwell. Higher sea levels mean worse storm surges, more coastal flooding, and more damage to infrastructure. For governments, this is more money needed to delegate to relief and repairs. The better solution is to act NOW. On a global scale, climate change is not negotiable. We need more commitment from our elected leaders – and if they’re not willing, they need to be out.
At this point, in the year 2022, there is no argument as to the cause: WE are responsible for climate change. Earlier this week, I was tutoring a student (she’s 12) and she told me that she just learned about climate deniers – she couldn’t believe they existed. There is hope with the children of the world: education is key. And there are many things we can do to reduce the collateral damage of our lifestyles. I’m well aware of travel by airplane contributing to my personal carbon footprint. So, to offset, I walk, bike and carpool when I can. We don’t overuse air conditioning (in summer) and heat (in winter) at home. Southwest Airlines, my favorite domestic airline in the US, has a feature where you can offset your carbon by purchasing credits that fund projects focused on mitigating impacts of climate change. Look for those ways to offset your carbon, wherever home may be. However small an action, do it and spread the news. All these small actions do end up having a ripple effect until they become cascading waves of change.
Photo: U. Peña, melt waterfalls coming off the Austfonna ice cap, the 3rd largest in Europe (seen in Svalbard a few weeks ago).