Europe heatwave expected to hit Arctic, speed up melting of ice sheet

Europe heatwave expected to hit Arctic, speed up melting of ice sheet
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A historic heat wave in Europe is expected to hit the Arctic, accelerating the melting of a large ice sheet that could increase global average sea levels by over 20 feet. 

Norway, Sweden and Finland will experience particularly high temperatures throughout the weekend, according to The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, as a high pressure in the mid-levels of the atmosphere over Scandinavia blocks cold fronts or other storm systems from entering the area. 

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A heat wave in 2018 in the region led to an outbreak of severe wildfires. Temperatures in Scandinavia will reach into the 90s or higher, the Post reported. 

Should the high-pressure area set up over Greenland, it could lead to the expedited melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Recent weather patterns already increased thawing of the sheet, and a complete melt could raise global average sea levels by 23 feet.

Ruth Mottram, a researcher with the Danish Meteorological Institute, told the Post that should the pressure system set up over Greenland, it could cause a melt event similar to one in 2012 in which nearly all of the ice sheet experienced melting.

“Assuming this comes off (and it seems likely) we would expect a very large melt event over the ice sheet,” Mottram said. “As you have probably seen the Arctic sea ice is already at record low for the time of year so clearly we may be looking at a situation where both the Arctic sea ice and Greenland ice sheet have record losses even over and above 2012 – though we won’t know for sure until after the event.” 

“This appears to be a very significant event for the Arctic,” Zack Labe, a climate researcher at the University of California at Irvine, added to the Post. “In fact, simulations from the MARv3.9 model suggest this may be the largest surface melt event of the summer.”

“Whether or not we set a new record low this year, the timing and extent of open water on the Pacific side of the Arctic has been unprecedented in our satellite record. This is already having significant impacts to coastal communities in Alaska and marine ecosystems.” 

The summer has been unusually hot in other parts of the Arctic as well, bringing Alaska its warmest June on record and causing more than 2 million acres to set ablaze across the state.