Most of us are familiar with the term ‘climate change’, and see it to some extent as a reality of the world today. For many of us, it’s something that we simply see in the news, with environmental conditions setting new records in faraway nations: “the warmest”, “the wettest”, “the driest”. But in some places, climate change is an irrefutable fact of everyday life. One of these places is Greenland. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average and is undergoing some of the most serious effects of climate change, with southwest Greenland seeing the most rapid warming (about 3°C during the past 7 years). In July 2013, the temperature at Maniitsoq airport, just beneath the Arctic Circle in West Greenland, was recorded at 25.9°C. This is the highest temperature ever recorded in Greenland.
One of the most obvious ways to monitor climate change in the Arctic is by looking at the extent of sea ice. Sea ice is frozen ocean water that forms, grows and melts in the ocean. Scientists analyze the amount of sea ice forming and melting every year as an indicator of the condition of the climate.
Greenland is an important gear in the global climate system. The main reason for this is the huge ice sheet which covers 80% of the island. This is the second largest of only two great ice sheets on the earth – the largest being on Antarctica. Greenland’s ice sheet is more than 100,000 years old and up to two miles thick, making up roughly 8% of all of Earth’s freshwater. It contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by 24 feet (7.3 meters).