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WEATHER

 Heatwave causes massive melt of Greenland ice sheet

Greenland's ice sheet has experienced a "massive melting event" during a heatwave that has seen temperatures more than 10 degrees above seasonal norms, according to Danish researchers.

 Heatwave causes massive melt of Greenland ice sheet
In this photo taken on May 20th, 2021 ice recedes from a glacier as seen from an aerial helicopter tour with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken of ice caps and fjords near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. SAUL LOEB / POOL / AFP

Since Wednesday the ice sheet covering the vast Arctic territory, has melted by around eight billion tonnes a day, twice its normal average rate during summer, reported the Polar Portal website, which is run by Danish researchers.

The Danish Meteorological Institute reported temperatures of more than 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit), more than twice the normal average summer temperature, in northern Greenland.

And Nerlerit Inaat airport in the northeast of the territory recorded 23.4 degrees on Thursday, the highest recorded there since records began.

With the heatwave affecting most of Greenland that day, the Polar Portal website reported a “massive melting event” involving enough water “to cover Florida with two inches of water” (five centimetres).

The largest melt of the Greenland ice sheet still dates back to the summer of 2019.

But the area where the melting took place this time is larger than two years ago, the website added.

The Greenland ice sheet is the second largest mass of freshwater ice on the planet with nearly 1.8 million square kilometres (695,000 square miles), second only to Antarctica.

The melting of the ice sheets started in 1990 and has accelerated since 2000. The mass loss in recent years is approximately four times greater than it was before 2000, say the researchers at Polar Portal.

One European study published in January said that ocean levels would rise between 10 and 18 centimetres by 2100 — or 60 percent faster than previously estimated — at the rate which the Greenland ice sheet was now melting.

The Greenland ice sheet, if completely melted, would raise the ocean levels by six to seven metres.

But with a relatively cool start to the Greenland summer, with snowfalls and rains, the retreat of the ice sheet so far for 2021 remains within the historical norm, according to Polar Portal. The melting period extends from June to early September.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Trains delayed and roads slippery in Sweden despite lower snowfall

Sweden's state-owned rail company SJ cancelled several train services on Tuesday as a result of the snowy weather, while forecasters warned that roads could still be slippery in many regions.

Trains delayed and roads slippery in Sweden despite lower snowfall

SJ is cancelling several regional trains on Tuesday between Stockholm and Uppsala, Stockholm and Västerås, and Gävle and Linköping at the request of the Swedish Transport Administration, which wants to free up space on the tracks. 

At the same time, weather forecaster SMHI warned that, while snowfall would decrease over the day, there would still be a risk of slippery roads in many areas.

“It’s still continuing to snow, but the intensive snowfall we are now warning about will come to an end during the day, starting in the south of the country,” state meteorologist Angelica Lundberg told the TT newswire.  “Over the coming days there may be an increased risk of slipping and this is the case most of all close to the coast.” 

Bengt Olsson, press officer for the Swedish Transport Administration, told SVT that the disruptions seen on Sunday and Monday looked likely to ease off on Tuesday. 

“It’s a bit calmer so far. There’s another type of road surface to day. It’s starting to freeze up a but. There’s a lot of crust from the snow and patches of ice out on the road, so its the risk of skidding that we are trying to deal with today.”

The slippery roads have led to some busses being cancelled, with Dalatrafiken, the bus operator in Dalarna, cancelling several regional bus services. 

Buses parked at the Keolis bus depot in Värtahamnen cruise terminal in Stockholm.
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Stockholm’s transport operator SL suspended the Lindingöbanan Light-railway line on Tuesday morning, and has also reduced some commuter train services. In Söderort, Huddinge and Botkyrka all bus services have been cancelled. 

“The measures taken to prevent skidding aren’t working,” SL’s press spokesperson Andreas Strömberg told SVT. “At Juliaborg in Huddinge six of our buses got stuck, so the traffic controllers decided to cancel all further services so we can get in snow ploughs.

Snow was continuing to fall on Tuesday over much of central Sweden, and SMHI has issued the lowest “yellow” weather warning for Sörmland, Västmanland, Örebro, Dalarna, and the north of Värmland. 

In most places, there is now between 5cm-15cm of snow, with 20cm in some places. 

 
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