It shouldn't be surprising by now to learn that the Arctic is melting at an alarming rate thanks to worsening climate change — and spelling bad news for the rest of the planet.
But sometimes it can be hard to conceptualize the vast scale of the problem, or how big of an impact it'll have on the rest of us, thousands of miles away. Well, new World Meteorological Organization data may help paint a mental picture. The organization reports that the amount of ice that melted in Greenland just on this Tuesday alone would be enough to submerge the entire state of Florida in two inches of water.
"It's a significant melt," University of Colorado snow and ice researcher Ted Scambos told CNN. "July 27th saw most of the eastern half of Greenland from the northern tip all the way to the southern tip mostly melted, which is unusual."
A massive ice melting event is taking place in #Greenland, according to @PolarPortal
It would be enough to cover Florida in 2 inches (5 cm) of water
Not as extreme as 2019 in terms of gigatons but the melt area is a bit larger than 2 years ago.#ClimateChange #ClimateAction pic.twitter.com/Ai7RaWWebK
— World Meteorological Organization (@WMO) July 29, 2021
Using one "Florida" as a unit of measurement may come across as a little too on-the-nose, given that the coastal state is at particularly high risk of flooding as climate change continues to get worse. So whether or not the comparison came across as tasteless, it does serve as a dire, pertinent warning for the area.
Unless world leaders take urgent and drastic climate action, the melt will likely only accelerate over the coming years.
"In the past decade, we've already seen that surface melting in Greenland has become both more severe and more erratic," University of Leeds glaciologist Thomas Slater told CNN. "As the atmosphere continues to warm over Greenland, events such as yesterday's extreme melting will become more frequent."
Slater published research in the journal Cryosphere earlier this year that measured the amount of ice that's melted since the 1990s — a whopping 30.8 trillion tons — most of which came from the Arctic.
Perhaps most shocking is the fact that Tuesday's melt didn't break any records. Greenland has seen more ice melt over shorter periods of time in recent history. But Tuesday's ice melt came from a broader swath of the region than before, hinting at an increasingly widespread problem in the future.
"Overall, we're seeing that Greenland melts more often," Scambos told CNN. "In previous decades or centuries, it's extremely rare to get above freezing temperatures at the summit of Greenland."
More on melting ice: World's Glaciers Melting Way, Way Faster Than We Thought