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How Rapid Climate Change on Greenland Will Affect Us All
August 29, 2017
The largest wildfire ever recorded in Greenland was recently spotted close to the west coast town of Sisimiut, not far from Disko Island where I research retreating glaciers. The fire has captured public and scientific interest not just because its size and location came as a surprise, but also because it is yet another signpost of deep environmental change in the Arctic.
Greenland is an important cog in the global climate system. The ice sheet which covers 80 percent of the island reflects so much of the sun’s energy back into space that it moderates temperatures through what is known as the “albedo effect.” And since it occupies a strategic position in the North Atlantic, its meltwater tempers ocean circulation patterns.
But Greenland is especially vulnerable to climate change, as Arctic air temperatures are currently rising at twice the global average rate. Environmental conditions are frequently setting new records: “the warmest,” “the wettest,” “the driest.”