Relatively few tropical storms ever make it as far north as Greenland, the ice-covered island that straddles the Arctic Circle east of Canada. But the ones that do appear to be inflicting serious damage – and not just on Greenland.

A study published Monday shows that warm, tropical air masses are accelerating the melting of Greenland’s ice sheets, exacerbating a problem that already is contributing to rising sea levels around the globe. The Greenland Ice Sheet currently covers more than 650,000 square miles, an area three times the size of Texas. Previous studies have documented rapid melting on the periphery of the ice sheet, which is losing mass at a rate 30 percent faster than in the late 1970s.

But new research shows tropical systems that hit Greenland in the autumn months cause a sharp spike in thawing. Unusually warm topical air and rainfall melt the surface ice and speed up the movement of glaciers at a time when the Arctic is normally turning colder, according to the study in the journal Nature GeoScience.

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