Feature

Meltdown

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Science  24 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6327, pp. 788-791
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6327.788

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Summary

In Greenland, the great melt is on. The decline of Greenland’s ice sheet is a familiar story, but until recently, massive calving glaciers that carry ice from the interior and crumble into the sea got most of the attention. But between 2011 and 2014, satellite data and modeling suggested that 70% of the annual 269 billion tons of snow and ice shed by Greenland was lost through surface melt, not calving. Complex feedbacks appear to be responsible: Warmer summers are abetted by microbes and algae that grow on the increasingly wet surface of the ice, producing pigments that boost the absorption of solar energy. Soot and dust that blow from lower latitudes and darken the ice also appear to be playing a role, as are changes in weather patterns that increasingly steer warm, moist air over the vulnerable ice.

  • * Reporting for this story was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.