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Heatwave threatens to accelerate ice melt in Greenland

As Europe's record-breaking heatwave drifts towards the Arctic it threatens to accelerate the melting of ice in Greenland, which already started earlier than normal this year, climate scientists warned Saturday.

Heatwave threatens to accelerate ice melt in Greenland
File photo: Christian Brøndum / Ritzau Scanpix

After breaking records over Europe, the heatwave has swept over Scandinavia and is predicted to move towards Greenland, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

“As it is forecast to move over the Arctic it will potentially bring a large amount of energy that will melt ice, both sea ice in the Arctic Ocean and the ice sheet surface over the next 3 to 5 days,” Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist with the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), told AFP.

That heat will add to a summer where the melting season started early and “persistent warm conditions have led to a very large loss of ice”.

According to DMI's models an estimated 170 gigatonnes of water have been added to the world's oceans from melted ice and snow between July 1st to July 26th.

100 gigatonnes contribute to about 0.28 millimetres of global sea level rise.

The expected average would be of about 60 to 80 gigatonnes of ice over the same period.

“So we're well over what we would normally have”, Mottram said, emphasizing that the rate of melting can vary greatly from one year to the next.

There are fears that this year's ice melt in Greenland could approach the record level set in 2012.

In “2012 summer conditions were even more extreme and for several days there was quite intense melt all the way to the summit of the ice sheet at 3000 metres above sea level,” Mottram said.

A similar melting event has not been observed this year so far, but with the heatwave approaching Greenland there could be a repeat.

Although the melting has been persistent this year, with relatively high temperatures day after day, “though within the normal range,” it is still unlike 2012 when melting was much more driven by “several very extreme melting days,” according to Mottram.

But Mottram also noted that higher than average melting coincides with a trend of “increasing melt rates over the last two decades”.

Melting ice in Greenland is also quite closely linked to global temperatures, meaning that as global temperatures rise, “we expect more melting to occur”.

READ ALSO: Greenland changes increase fears of another devastating year for Arctic

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ENVIRONMENT

Greenland passes law banning uranium mining

Greenland's parliament voted Tuesday to ban uranium mining and exploration in the vast Danish territory, following through on a campaign promise from the ruling left-wing party which was elected earlier this year.

Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement.
Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement. File photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won snap elections in April that were originally triggered by divisions over a controversial uranium and rare earth mining project.

The IA won 12 seats in the 31-seat Greenlandic national assembly, beating its rival Siumut, a social democratic party that had dominated politics in the island territory since it gained autonomy in 1979.

On Tuesday 12 MPs in the national assembly voted to ban uranium mining, with nine voting against. 

The IA had campaigned against exploiting the Kuannersuit deposit, which is located in fjords in the island’s south and is considered one of the world’s richest in uranium and rare earth minerals.

The project, led by the Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals, has not yet been officially abandoned.

But French group Orano announced in May it would not launch exploration despite holding permits to do so.

The massive natural riches of the vast island — measuring two million square kilometres, making it larger than Mexico — have been eyed by many, but few projects have been approved.

The island is currently home to two mines: one for anorthosite, whose deposits contain titanium, and one for rubies and pink sapphires.

While Greenland’s local government is not opposed to all mining activities, it has also banned all oil exploration over concerns for the climate and the environment.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Mute Egede said he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement, which Greenland is one of the few countries not to have ratified.

READ ALSO: Greenland seabed scoured for marine diamonds

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