An almost unbelievable photo of huskies dragging their sledges through ankle-deep water in Greenland has become a viral phenomenon after Danish climatologist Steffen M Olsen took the picture on 13 June while on a routine mission through the Inglefield Gulf in northwest Greenland.
The rapidly melting ice caused difficult and dangerous conditions for the team of climatologists who were retrieving weather station equipment from the area.
The thin layer of water was standing on top of an ice sheet around 1.2 metres deep, Dr Olsen said on Twitter where the photo was published.
“We know the ice is around 1.2m thick and that we have about 870m [of] water below us. Together with the local hunters we have been measuring also ice thickness from December to now. An ongoing activity for almost a decade now.”
Greenland’s ice melting season normally runs from June to August, but the DMI said this year’s melting started on 30 April, the second-earliest time on record going back to 1980.
But experts claim it is too soon to suggest the photo taken on that “unusual day” is down to climate change.
Climate researcher at the DMI, Ruth Mottram, explains: “As the ice in this region is relatively thick and fracture free, the meltwater is unable to drain away through cracks in the ice as it would normally and hence the challenging conditions for the dog sledges.
Since 1972, ice loss from Greenland alone has added 13.7 millimetres (about half an inch) to the global sea level, a recent study estimates. The island’s ice sheet is the leading source of water added to the ocean every year.