Speed Reads

climate alert

Europe's heatwave could now cause catastrophic melting of Greenland's ice sheet

It's not just Europe that's sweltering in record-breaking heat.

The same heat wave that swept across Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom this week, breaking high-temperature records reaching up to 114 degrees, is wafting over to Greenland and could cause catastrophic melting, the United Nations said Friday.

Reuters reports that the heat could cause record melting of one of the world's largest ice sheets, contributing to rising sea levels around the globe. The Greenland ice sheet has been struggling in recent scorching weeks, according to Denmark data tracking the gains and losses of the ice mass.

"In July alone, it lost 160 billion tonnes of ice through surface melting," said U.N. World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman Clare Nullis. "That's roughly the equivalent of 64 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Just in July. Just surface melt — it's not including ocean melt as well."

If the Greenland ice sheet melts entirely, it would raise global sea levels by 7 meters, or approximately 23 feet, Denmark's data shows. Nullis says rising temperatures, which are linked to manmade climate change, are expected to soar past records regularly by 2050 with biennial heatwaves. "What we saw with this one was that temperature records weren't just broken," said Nullis, "they were smashed."