Alarm as 'massive ice melting event' hits Greenland, where it's warmer than NZ right now

Scientists are warning a "massive ice melting event" in Greenland is affecting an even bigger area than 2019's record-breaking melt.

So much of it melted on Tuesday if it was funnelled into Florida it would cover the entire state 5cm deep, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Thursday (NZ time).

"Not as extreme as 2019 in terms of gigatons but the melt area is a bit larger than 2 years ago," the UN body said.

In 2019 a large high positioned itself over the Danish-owned island, which contains the biggest ice sheet in the world outside of Antarctica. This year's melting covers a larger area.

"It's a significant melt," University of Colorado climate researcher Ted Scambos told CNN. "July 27th saw most of the eastern half of Greenland from the northern tip all the way to the southern tip mostly melted, which is unusual."

It's the third time in the past decade that Greenland has experienced significant melting over and above normal, scientists said. 

"Overall, we're seeing that Greenland melts more often," said Scambos. "In previous decades or centuries, it's extremely rare to get above freezing temperatures at the summit of Greenland."

Right now at Station Nord, at the top of the icy continent, it's 10C. Nord is 81 degrees north - inside the Arctic Circle. The WMO said on Wednesday Constable Pynt, 70 degrees north, measured a high of 23.2C and Danmarkshavn, 76 degrees north, got to 19.8C - a new record. 

For comparison Auckland is much closer to the equator at 37 degrees south, and has an average winter high of about 10C - but we're not meant to be covered in ice. 

An image from the European Space Agency's Copernicus satellite, tweeted by the WMO, shows "sediment discharge from ice melt" is clearly visible from space. The same satellite on the same day captured images of large fires in Russia's Siberia region, which is usually covered in permafrost. 

The warning on Greenland comes the same week 14,000 scientists warned there would be "untold suffering" if climate change isn't tackled urgently. 

"There has been an unprecedented surge in climate-related disasters since 2019, including devastating flooding in South America and southeast Asia, record shattering heat waves and wildfires in Australia and the western United States, an extraordinary Atlantic hurricane season, and devastating cyclones in Africa, south Asia, and the west Pacific," the paper, published in journal BioScience, reads.

"There is also mounting evidence that we are nearing or have already crossed tipping points associated with critical parts of the Earth system, including the west Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, warm-water coral reefs, and the Amazon rainforest."

If the Greenland ice sheet melted completely, it would raise sea levels 7m. The more that melts, the less highly reflective ice there is to bounce heat back into space, so more is absorbed - speeding up the process.