Located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean, Greenland happens to be the largest island in the world. Being an autonomous territory that lies within the Kingdom of Denmark, Greenland is culturally as well as politically associated with the European continent, especially Denmark and Norway. The island has recently been going through a change in its environment. The absence of fresh snow is leading to the darkening of its surface and of course, melting at a faster rate. A deficit of snow is a result of the change in the weather system Since the year 1982, the temperature of the ice sheet over Greenland has risen by 2.7 degrees Celsius. Darker snow, along with the ice soaking up more heat can lead to a quick rise in the sea level. This is really alarming.
Lack of Fresh Snow
The MODIS satellite of NASA has revealed some data which shows that the surface of the island has been reflecting less light over the past twenty years. As per the new study, the surface has been contaminated by dust, soot, or micro-organisms. Since the weather patterns are changing, there is a lack of fresh snow on Greenland’s surface. As a consequence, the grains of the snow is growing larger in size and becoming less reflective. When there is a fresh snowfall and the sunlight falls on the surface, the reflection can be blinding. Therefore, you would always need sunglasses while stepping out. Two to three days post that, the reflection won’t be the same and will be much easier on the eyes. Since snow ages over a period of time, fresh snowfall is always important.
Amount of Snow in Goldilocks Zone
According to a research team, the amount of dust, soot, and micro-organisms, and other impurities in the snow covering the southwestern coast of Greenland is around 1 part for 1 billion. Hence, that is some of the cleanest snow you would find. On a snowmobile trek of almost 4400 kilometers over the mid-elevation region, the scientists found out that the surface temperature rises to a level where the ice sheet melts over a period of 10 to 20 days in the summer season every year. However, snowfall is more on average as compared to melting or evaporating. The balance has been undergoing a distinct change over the last few decades. Climate change caused due to human activities has accelerated snow melting across the surface of the island.
Increase in the Size of Snowflakes
Every snow grain in the percolation zone was measured by the experts. An increase in their sizes might have led to the changes in reflectivity, they feel. Talking about snowflakes, the delicate points tend to either melt or evaporate. As a result, they get rolled into blobs that lose the capacity of reflecting sunlight. Instead, they absorb more sunlight than usual. That leads to the darkening of the snow surface. The naked eye is unable to measure the difference, but as a matter of fact, a minor change like 1% in reflectivity could result in the loss of 25 gigatons of ice over a period of three years, reveal the experts. Once fresh snow settles down on the ice sheet and the sunlight falls on the layer, the snow starts to metamorphose. Consequently, the snow grains increase in size with time. Storms that were responsible for fresh snowfall are not seen much nowadays.
There was a significant increase in the duration and frequency of atmospheric blocking over the island of Greenland during the mid-nineties. This particular pattern has a great influence on the Northern Hemisphere weather and has been tracked as Greenland Blocking Index by meteorologists. Researchers have no clue why this weather pattern has climbed up to record levels over the past decades. They have also been unable to infer how this particular climate change caused by human activities has been affecting the changes in weather patterns. The high pressure over the ice sheet stays on for days and even weeks. The path of the other weather systems gets blocked. Since snowstorms have been pushed towards the northern side, fresh snow doesn’t cover the surface of the ice sheet as frequently as it used to.
Atmospheric blocking leads to a rise in surface temperatures. As a result, less snowfall occurs making the ice sheet darker. This is the primary reason why Greenland is melting so fast. Urgent measures have to be taken if this needs to be prevented.