Short summary. The 0.5 mm sea level rise due to ice melting in July is dramatic but you need to compare it with the rest of the year. July is usually the top month for ice loss. In the winter the Greenland ice sheet gains ice through snowfall, so you need to look at the balance between losses and gains.

Also you need to compare it with previous years. It’s actually not quite enough of a melt so far to beat the 2012 record. The Arctic sea ice minimum this year is also not expected to be as low as the 2012 minimum. .

This is nothing to be scared of. Just an unsurprising increased melt, after a previous year when there was so much snow that Greenland actually gained ice due to heavy winter snowfall in 2017–8

None of this changes the projections for 2100 from the NOAA or IPCC.

If you are worried about the Arctic fires see my

The June melt was due to a dry winter and a warm spring this year (normally there is more snow in winter with global warming). We have also had a significant melt in July.

Although it did lead to some monthly records it is probably not going to beat the 2012 record for total year round melt. Here the blue line is this year and the yellow line is the 2012 record year.

As you see the blue line did briefly go above the yellow line in June but for the most part it has been below it.

Mark Serreze, Director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, interviewed by Discovery blog put it like this:

If you look at temperature records for the Arctic, what you see is natural climate variability superposed upon the general warming trend. Given that there is a lot of natural variability, I guess I’m not all that surprised. The last few summers have been somewhat cool, so we were due for a warm one. And here we are.

10 billion tons of meltwater poured off Greenland in a day — but are things as bad as the Twittersphere says?

As for minimum Arctic sea ice extent, the chance of a new minimum this year are slim.

This year may not beat the 2012 record but it still an event that would be a rare occurrence without global warming. Both this and the 2012 year record would have been between a 1 in 82 years and 1 in 250 years occurrence in previous millennia before global warming. The extreme melt across the Greenland ice sheet in 2012

Though the surface ice melt hits the news, it’s actually the glacier discharges into the sea that has produced most of the sea level rise since 1972, about 10 mm of the 15 mm rise. In the last decade the ice melt has contributed about half the loss. But long term it’s the glacier discharge that’s the main concern not ice melt. The ice melt is expected to continue to dominate the loss in the SW but the glaciers in the North and North East move very slowly because they run into ice shelves around Greenland which slow them down.

If those ice shelves melt then these glaciers will then be likely to flow as fast as the ones in the NW and SE. Those have the potential to become a significant contribution to sea level rise later in this century in a warming world.

At present, Greenland is contributing less than a third of the global sea level rise of 3.1 mm a year. The estimates for 2100 remain as before. If it continues like that, that's 31 cms a century, but as the world warms up naturally the amount of ice lost to the oceans each year could potentially increase, for instance due to those glaciers moving faster, and to some extent the increased ice melt They also have to look at the Western Antarctic glaciers, and then there's the warming ocean - water expands as it gets warmer.

From the IPCC report in 2018 the prediction is a global mean sea level rise of 0.26 – 0.77m at 1.5°C (by 2100) and 10.4 million more people affected at 2°C.

This is another article I'm writing to support people we help in the Facebook Doomsday Debunked group, that find us because they get scared, sometimes to the point of feeling suicidal about it, by such stories.

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We can adapt to those levels of sea level rise, already are. The worst affected are Bangladesh, because it is a poorer country and it is harder for it to find the billions of dollars of funds needed, and Florida because of the geological accident that it is built on porous limestone and so can’t protect itself with sea walls.

The Netherlands are fine, they have a lot of experience and they are pioneering the new approach of “barriers and sponges” where you actually deliberately let in some water at high tide and keep it in sponges such as marshes, open areas, stadiums, places that can bear being flooded and then let them out again at low tides combined with strategic barriers. They are exporting this new method to other cities and countries around the world.

There is no practical limit to the height of a sea wall, the highest earthen work dam in the world is 300 meters.

However, if we can stay within 1.5 C the amount of adaptation, and the associated expense due to sea level rise is far less. It also means far less climate migrants from places like Florida and parts of Bangladesh that for various reasons can’t hold back the sea easily.

For details see:


Ruth Mottram said that Greenland lost 197 billion tons of ice in July, equivalent to 197 cubic kilometers of fresh water.

The surface area of all our oceans is about 361.9 million square kilometers according to the NOAA Spread over all the Earth's oceans those 197 cubic kilometers would be a bit over half a mm of water.

However though it seems a lot for one month, 0.5 mm is less than a sixth of the total of 3.1 mm world sea level rise. Also this is for July which is one of the months with most melt.

The Grace satellite which does 3D mapping of the ice sheet from orbit, measures an average loss of around 281 gigatons a year. A gigaton is around a cubic kilometer of water. Notice how in winter it usually gains ice Sadly this video doesn't go as far as 2018 when it actually gained ice overall through the year, gaining more the previous winter than it lost in summer.

(click to watch on be)

Orange and red for regions that lost ice, blue for regions that gained ice relative to 2002. Details here.

The June event of 2019 lead to about 80 billion tons of ice melting, though most of that remained on the sheet and will refreeze.

Of that, 30 billion tons of that was lost to the sea (or stored temporarily in lakes to later be lost).

The June melt was briefly more extensive than for 2012, but then dipped below 2012.

Total melt from June 11 to 20 was about 80 billion tons, of which approximately 30 billion tons ran off the ice into the ocean (or was stored temporarily in lakes).

From Greenland Ice Sheet Today

A study of the 2012 melt, which is the record so far, concluded that historically it's a 1 in 250 year event from 1000 to 4000 years ago, and one in 82 years from 5000 to 8500 years ago.

These significant melt events are widely sporadic in different periods of the Holocene, clearly exhibiting their non‐stationary behavior. Thus, a single average value of melt frequency is not necessarily applicable to represent climate change at a given time period in the past, the present, or the future.

The extreme melt across the Greenland ice sheet in 2012

This year may not beat the 2012 record but it still an event that would be a rare occurrence without global warming.


Some news reports are extrapolating from this and saying we are likely to have a record low for sea ice in the Arctic as a whole. But the National Snow and Ice Data Center say the chances of this are slim at present.

This graph extrapolates in a simple way using the rate of decline for August in 2012 as the lowest curve, for 2006 as the top curve, overall average from 1981 to 2010 as the red curve and from 2007 to 2018 as the green curve. The black dashed line is for the 2012 minimum sea ice extent.

“A simple way to investigate this possibility is to project forward from this year’s current extent using ice loss rates from other years to estimate extents through the remainder of the summer. Based on this approach, prospects of a new record low appear slim; a new record low would only occur if loss rates followed those observed in 2012, which were very rapid because of persistent warm conditions through the melt season, with ice loss potentially enhanced by the passage of a strong cyclone in August.”

Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis (National Snow and Ice Data Center)

Loss of ice extent through the first half of July matched loss rates observed in 2012, the year which had the lowest September sea ice extent in the satellite record. Surface melt has become widespread and there is low concentration ice in the Beaufort Sea. However, projections suggest that a new record low extent is unlikely this year.

Beware the Ides of July

The IPCC in 2018 said in their chapter 3 that there is a higher probability of a sea ice free Arctic ocean in summer, every 10 years at 2°C compared to every 100 years at 1.5°C. An overshoot to 2°C has no long term effect on how easily the Arctic ice heals as it cools down again - there is no tipping point.

(this has no direct effect on sea level rise but e.g. the melting of ice around Greenland by increasing glacier flow rate affects it indirectly)

For more on this:


This summarizes: Forty-six years of Greenland Ice Sheet mass balance from 1972 to 2018

Short summary: though the ice melt is hitting the news it is rather variable and only about a third of the total ice loss since 1972 is due to the ice melt and other surface processes. Two thirds is due to glacier discharge into the sea. The surface ice loss though has increased over the period and is currently 55% of the loss. The total sea level rise is about 15 mm with 5 mm due to the surface ice loss and 10 mm due to the glacier discharge. Some of the glaciers have actually increased during the time period, and one of the ones that contributes most to the loss of ice in the last decade, Ikertivaq S, actually gained overall since 1972. The ice melt mainly affects the SW of Greenland.

Long term its the North and North East that’s of most concern. At present that area has especially slow moving glaciers that discharge onto buttressing ice shelves. If they lose those ice shelves they are likely to increase to the same rate of discharge as the glaciers in the SE and NW. The area has the potential for 2.37 meters total sea level rise (though that would only unfold over thousands of years).

So long term the ice melt that is hitting the news is not the main issue, it’s glacier discharge from the North and North East, which will increase if the ice shelves around the northern parts of Greenland melt.

This is a recent paper, the red is the loss due to glaciers discharging into the sea and the blue is the loss due to surface processes like this ice melt. Purple is the total loss from both processes. The slope of the curve shows how fast it melts year to year - so you can see that the discharge is the steeper curve through to around 2000 and after that they are about the same in slope, about half due to melt and half due to discharge, but the discharge is a much smoother curve year on year.

It’s lost 10 mm due to the glacier discharge and 5 mm due to the surface ice loss since 1972, of that, it lost 3 mm since 2010 each due to the surface processes and the glacier discharge.

From 1972–1990 it was in near equilibrium. The discharge from glaciers into the sea dominates the increase and was the main factor originally. Still, over the entire period, twice of the loss is due to the glacier discharge rather than surface ice melt ( 66 ± 8% for glacier discharge, D in the paper and 34 ± 8% for surface ice melt and other surface processes, Surface Mass Balance, or SMB in the paper)

It’s only in the last two decades that the decrease due to ice melt and other surface processes has dominated, at 55 ± 5%.

The glacier discharge increased by 18% while ice melt etc has increased by 38% in the same period.


There is a lot of variety between the glaciers. Some of the glaciers gained ice. This shows you can’t extrapolate from one glacier to the whole ice sheet.

In 2000 to 2012 half of the total loss is from four glaciers, Jakobshavn Isbræ, Kangerlussuaq, Køge Bugt, and Ikertivaq S, but the last one, Ikertivaq S, actually has gained ice overall from 1972 to 2018.

Saqqap, Majorqaq, and Russell glaciers in SW gained 282 ± 18 Gt in 1972–2006.

Rink Isbræ, Hayes N and NN, Petermann, Nioghalfjerdfjorden, and Daugaard-Jensen glaciers had no dynamic changes (< 10%).

Daugaard-Jensen calves on a stabilizing ridge. Nioghalfjerdfjorden retreats along a prograde bed. Rink and Petermann are protected by a buttressing ice shelf. Petermann and Nioghalfjerdfjorden sped 10% since 2010 and 2006, respectively, following a weakening of their buttressing ice shelves

Forty-six years of Greenland Ice Sheet mass balance from 1972 to 2018

They don’t go any further back than 1972 but discussing an earlier paper that goes further back they make the hypothesis (posit) that there were previous periods of high loss in the 1920s through to the 1940s.

This shows how the ice loss varies accross Greenland over the time period:

This breaks it down by the type of loss for each region. The pale colours show the loss due to ice melt and other surface loss, and the more saturated colours the loss due to the glacier discharge. GIS means Greenland Ice Sheet in this figure, i.e. total over the entire ice sheet. Blue means a gain in ice, so back in the 1970s it was gaining ice due to surface processes but losing it due to glacial discharge.

For the future they see the SW as dominated by surface melt (SMB) but the other sectors all dominated by glacier discharge.

For the long term contribution to sea leavel rise the North and NE sectors are of most importance.

At the moment those sectors have equal amounts of discharge and melt, and the glacier speeds are slow. But there is a potential for a large increase in glacier discharge if the glaciers lose their buttressing ice shelves and start flowing as fast as their counterparts in the SE and NW.

The region also has the largest potential for the total sea level rise (2.73 meters) of Greenland (though that would only happen over thousands of years).

They say

The evolution of NO and NE glaciers in the coming decades is therefore of greatest relevance to future sea level change as the ice shelves are weakened by climate change.

In the future, we expect the mass changes in the northern part of Greenland to become of greatest importance to sea level rise, because of the large reserve of ice above sea level and the potential for manyfold increase in ice discharge.

(That is a manyfold increase in ice discharge over a currently very slow rate)

For the future, then they see the most likely cause of increase as due to the glaciers in the North East and North (NO)


We are currently headed for 3°C which knocks more than a degree over the projections before the Paris agreement.

With the next round of pledges in 2020, this is bound to improve, as there are clear signs that many countries plan to increase their pledges for 2020 especially China one of the most important.

It is far too soon to know for sure, but it is at least bound to be significantly less than our current 3°C . We have another decade to get the pledges down to 2°C and then 1.5°C for the easiest way to stay within 1.5°C. If we don't get all the way on track for 1.5°C by 2030, we can also still do it with a more rapid decrease after 2030 or with an overshoot and then carbon capture and storage or utilization.

The reason the emissions year on year continue to rise is because some nations are rapidly industrializing, especially China. This is expected to continue through to the early 2020s on all the scenarios.

However, China is also rapidly converting to renewables with the largest solar farms on the planet and other major renewables initiatives. It is also doing a lot of reafforestation and restoring of degraded land. It is currently expected to have its turn over point some time early in the 2020s. It might even be that 2018 is its highest emission year but it may increase for a few more years.

Once China switches to mostly renewables there is potential for rapid decreases. They are one of the countries most affected by climate change, and most strongly behind the Paris agreement - even though they are also amongst the countries with the biggest challenges.

The EU is also strongly behind it. The main political question is whether it can commit to 1.5°C already by 2020; its2°C target is already achieved. The UK has lead the way as the first G7 country to commit to 1.5°C. The UK was already reducing its CO2 emissions rapidly, and on track for 80% reductions by 2050 and it is now committed to reduce all the way to zero emissions by then.

Many smaller countries are strongly committed too with a fair number even having sub 1.5°C goals.

India is also strongly committed (though it has major challenges to face as it rapidly industrializes). Its per capita CO2 emissions start far lower than China which in turn is far lower than the US. India needs to keep these levels low while industrializing, then to reduce them. It is like the EU 2°C, compatible. and as with the EU, but for different reasons, the main question is whether it can get down to 1.5°C compatible. In both cases it is a matter of how to do it politically.

A greater commitment to the Green Climate Fund by the developed countries would help the less developed ones like India and Bangladesh to fulfill their goal (e.g. funding to help kick start use of solar photovoltaic panels which is harder for them to do when their citizens have low per capita capital), and there it is encouraging that China has said it supports the Green Climate Fund.

If that can increase to the promised $100 billion a year instead of the current levels of about a tenth of that it will make it easier for the developing countries to achieve more ambitious climate goals.

Russia’s commitment is rather weak so far, and the US is half in half, half of its citizens and states very strongly committed, half are not, and it is rather polarized on this matter politically. However US emissions are steady and slowly decreasing partly because renewables are already competitive with coal, also there are many renewables initiatives in the US. They are not such an important part of the total mix until towards the end of the 2020s so there are several election cycles still for them to come on board. At present the main thing is that their emissions are level and decreasing not increasing.

For the bigger picture:

See also, the IPBES report and their solution involving a high percentage of sociologists and economists:

I wrote that based on the summary for policy makers and the press conference. The draft chapters are now available online.


Netherlands have been holding back the sea for centuries, and they are pioneering the way forwards.

Here are a couple of videos about their past:

(click to watch on be)

and learning from them for the future

(click to watch on be)

For more about this see my:

which goes into the Dutch, Bangladesh and Florida scenarios as examples for the rest of the world.


If you are scared: Seven tips for dealing with doomsday fears which also talks about health professionals and how they can help.

If in the middle of a panic attack, see


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