Monday saw the Greenland ice sheet covered in a record-breaking level of melt water for this time of year, according to scientists who monitor it.
Researchers at the Danish Meteorological Institute found that a whopping 12% of the ice sheet was covered in a layer of melt water that was at least 1 millimeter thick. Such double-digit figures typically don’t emerge until May – and the day before had seen levels of only 4%.
The numbers had some researchers feeling “incredulous,” according to an update posted on Polar Portal, a collaboration among several Danish research institutions.
“We had to check that our models were still working properly,” Peter Langen, a climate scientist with the meteorological institute, said in the update.
These sorts of events are worrisome to scientists because it’s hard to track exactly what happens to the water, according to an earlier Los Angeles Times story on the dramatic 2012 melt. In any case, even though water may eventually refreeze, that water brings some heat with it – which can have very problematic effects on the ice in the long run.
So these events might make the ice even more vulnerable to climate change. That’s potentially troubling for the ice sheet, which according to a recent study in Nature lost more than 9 trillion metric tons of ice from 1900 to 2010.