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Earliest Start Ever for Greenland Ice Melt

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April 17, 2016

Ice melt in Greenland has begun for this year already, the earliest on record for the perennially icy island.

The very large ice sheet that covers much of the island nation for much of the winter goes through a melting period every year, usually in early June or perhaps in late May. But as of late April in 2016, the annual melting is already under way.

Scientists say that ice melt can officially be declared when 10 percent of the ice sheet surface is melting. The earliest date on the calendar when that had been known occur was on May 5, in 2010.

Scientists reported record warm temperatures and heavy rain as causing the 12-percent melt already observed. The scientists reported having to repeatedly check their findings based on the assumption that an ice melt’s starting in April was unprecedented. The recorded high temperature on April 12 was 20.3 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.5 degrees Celsius); that was 40 degrees Fahrenheit above what is usually recorded that time of year. And because is it so “hot” so early, the scientists reported expecations of record ice melt continuing further into the year than previously seen.

The highest degree of ice melt on record occurred in 2012, when 95 percent of the ice sheet showed surface melting. The twin causes that year were soot from wildfires in Russia and, of course, high temperatures.

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