Photo of sled dogs shows reality of Greenland’s melting ice sheet

Photo of sled dogs shows reality of Greenland’s melting ice sheet
In this photo taken on Thursday, June 13, 2019 sled dogs make their way in northwest Greenland with their paws in melted ice water.

Steffen Olsen, a scientist with the Danish Meteorological Institute, was on a routine mission in northwest Greenland to retrieve oceanographic and weather monitoring tools placed by his colleagues on sea ice when he ran into a problem.

He couldn’t see them — the usually flat white sea ice was covered in water, the result of flooding from Greenland’s ice sheet, the second largest on the planet.

The incredible photo he took, of sled dogs ankle deep in a wide expanse of light blue water, quickly went viral, destined to join pictures of starving polar bears, shrunken glaciers, stranded walruses and lakes turned bone dry in the pantheon of evidence of our ongoing climate catastrophe.

As Olsen said on Twitter, communities in Greenland — mainly indigenous — “rely on the sea ice for transport, hunting and fishing.” They will be among the first affected by the melting of the ice sheet, but the repercussions will not remain limited to Greenland or even North America.

Greenland’s “melt season” runs from June to August, with the bulk of melting occurring in July, the hottest month. But this year has already seen massive amounts of ice lost, with some 40% of Greenland experiencing melting on June 13 — the day Olsen took his photo — for a total melt of more than 2 billion tons of ice, according to recent estimations.