efe-epaBy Anxo Lamela and Juanjo Galan Copenhagen/Helsinki

Scientists are alarmed by the pace of ice melt, droughts and higher temperatures in the Arctic, linking the recent extreme changes to climate change.

Above-average temperatures and decreased rainfall have been recorded in June and July all over the autonomous Danish territory of Greenland, which has the world’s second largest ice sheet after Antarctica.

“These phenomena occur from time to time, but the heatwave from Europe at the end of July was an additional boost,” Ruth Mottram, climate scientist and glaciologist at the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), told Efe.

This summer’s rapid loss of glacial and sea ice came after a long period of higher overall temperatures and a dry winter.

Greenland’s ice sheet lost a record of 11 billion tons of surface ice in just one day earlier this month, which is more than double the daily average this season.

“According to the models we use, we do not expect the absolute record of 2012 to be exceeded, but it does enter the ‘top 5’,” said Mottram, noting the Greenland ice sheet has experienced nine high ice melts in the past 15 years.

The DMI scientist acknowledged that although meteorological variations may fluctuate from one year to another, the predictions suggest that these phenomena would take place more often and the Arctic’s ice melt would continue to increase.

Sebastian Mernild, climatologist and CEO of the Norwegian Nansen Environmental Center, said the Arctic Sea ice area has decreased since mid-July by four percent lower than the previous record low set in 2012.

“The consequences are serious,” Mernild pointed out.

“It is becoming worse. There is a negative balance in the ice sheet that contributes to the rise in sea level, and that is problematic.

“What we have seen this year is likely to be seen more frequently. Extreme phenomena will become normal.”

Climate change has “clear” effects on people in the Arctic because the snow is arriving later and melting earlier.

In the most populous town in eastern Greenland, Tasiilaq, the sled dog population has decreased to a couple of hundred because the early melting of the ice has led to shorter hunting seasons.

The Norwegian Polar Institute said earlier that 200 reindeers starved to death in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard last winter because they could no longer find food.

The climate change impacts also can be noticed in other countries of the Arctic area such as Finland, with summers marked by reduced precipitation and above-average temperatures, while winters are becoming warmer with less snow.

Helsinki recorded a temperature of 33.2C (91.7) on July 28, breaking its previous record.

Many areas across the country witnessed long period of droughts that contributed to hundreds of small forest fires.

Finnish experts estimate that the national average temperature has risen 2.3C since the mid-19th century, with a steep rise in the last three decades.

Temperatures will continue to rise in the Nordic country over the average global temperature due to climate change, according to the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

The institute said that by the end of the 21st century the average annual temperature of Finland would increase between 2.3 and 6C, compared to the 1986-2005 period, depending of the evolution of air pollutant emissions.

Local authorities are so concerned about the effects of global warming that they have adopted a National Climate Change Adaptation Plan, with the aim to become a carbon neutral country before 2035. EFE-EPA