Viral photograph of Greenland Ice Melt

This photo was shared thousands of times on social media, has been used by media outlets worldwide, and has been designated one of the photos of the decade.

If you're interested in knowing more about the impact of the photograph, read our report here.

If you'd like to use the photograph for educational or outreach purposes, please get in touch.



The background

This photo was taken in Greenland by Steffen M. Olsen (DMI), the coordinator of Blue-Action. It was snapped on Thursday 13th June 2019 on sea ice in the middle of Inglefield Fjord. Steffen, his colleagues and the dogs were not on the ice sheet, dogs were running on sea ice flooded by surface melt water. Together with the local hunters, they were out measuring ice thickness from December to June.

The photo illustrates a natural phenomenon as ice melts annually. However, rapid melt and sea ice with low permeability and few cracks leaves the melt water on top.  The ice is around 1.2 m thick at this point with about 870 m water below it. These days were characterized by extreme and early melting rates on Greenland. The temperatures in Qaanaaq on 13 June 2019 were less than half a degree from the record of June 30 2012, and y reached two weeks earlier.

Communities in Greenland rely on the sea ice for transport, hunting and fishing. Extreme events, such as the flooding of the ice by abrupt onset of surface melt, call for an increased predictive capacity and action to mitigate increased warming in the Arctic. This photo is more symbolic than scientific, but illustrates Arctic warming and in particular the expectation that weather will be more extreme in the future.

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