NASA Observes Unprecedented Meltdown of Greenland Ice Surface

By Sangeeta Mukherjee , Jul 25, 2012 12:46 PM EDT

July's record-breaking heat has hit Greenland so hard that almost all surface ice cover has melted at twice the pace than usual.

Three NASA satellites observed that Greenland, this year, had unprecedented meltdown over a widespread area for four days starting from July 8. According to the report, this is the largest meltdown noticed in more than 30 years of satellite observations.

"This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?" said Son Nghiem of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who first observed the incident, in a press release.

Nghiem then cross-checked with Dorothy Hall at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. They studied the surface temperature of Greenland using the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites and finally confirmed the results.

"The melting spread quickly. Melt maps derived from the three satellites showed that on July 8, about 40 percent of the ice sheet's surface had melted. By July 12, 97 percent had melted," reports NASA.

"Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time," says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data. "But if we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome."

Scientists, however, have not confirmed whether the melting is an outcome of global warming or is natural.

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