Greenland update for 2010: record melting and a massive calving event

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:31 PM GMT on March 04, 2011

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No humans were present on the morning of August 4, 2010, in a remote fjord in Northwest Greenland, when the air vibrated with a thunderous crack as one of the largest icebergs in world history calved from the Petermann Glacier, the island's second largest ocean-terminating glacier. Where the glacier meets the sea, a 43 mile-long tongue of floating ice existed at the beginning of 2010. On August 4 2010, a quarter of this 43 mile-long tongue of floating ice fractured off, spawning a 100 square mile ice island four times the size of Manhattan, with a thickness half that of the Empire State building. According to Andreas Muenchow, associate professor of physical ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, the freshwater stored in this ice island could have kept the Delaware or Hudson rivers flowing for more than two years, or kept all U.S. public tap water flowing for 120 days. There was speculation that the ice island could find its way into the open Atlantic Ocean in two years, and potentially pose a threat to oil platforms and ships. However, as the ice island made its turn to get from the narrow Petermann Fjord to enter Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada, the mighty iceberg split into thousands of small icebergs that will not pose an unusual threat to shipping when they emerge into the Atlantic.


Figure 1. The 100 square-mile ice island that broke off the Petermann Glacier heads out of the Petermann Fjord in this image taken by NASA's Aqua satellite on August 21, 2010. Image credit: NASA. I've constructed a 7-frame satellite animation available here that shows the calving and break-up of the Petermann Glacier ice island. The animation begins on August 5, 2010, and ends on September 21, with images spaced about 8 days apart. The images were taken by NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites.

Petermann Glacier spawned smaller ice islands in 2001 (34 square miles) and in 2008 (10 square miles). In 2005, the Ayles Ice Shelf, about 60 miles to the west of Petermann Glacier, disintegrated and became a 34 square-mile ice island. The August 2010 Petermann Glacier calving event created the largest iceberg observed in the Arctic since 1962, when the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf on the north coast of Canada's Ellesmere Island calved off a massive 230 square mile chunk. The Ward Hunt Ice Shelf also calved off a huge 21 square mile ice island a few days after the August 2010 Petermann Glacier calving event. According to an article in livescience.com, "Driftwood and narwhal remains found along the Ellesmere coast have radiocarbon dates from roughly 3,000 to 6,800 years ago, implying that the ice has been intact since those remains were deposited." All of the these calving events are evidence that the ice sheets in the Arctic are responding as one would expect to significantly warmer temperatures.

Warmer ocean temperatures cause significant melting of Greenland's glaciers
At a talk last December at the world's largest conference on climate change, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, glacier expert Eric Rignot of UC-Irvine implicated ocean warming as a key reason for the calving of the Petermann Glacier's ice island. The ocean waters near the glacier have warmed by 1 - 2°C over the past three years, he said, and all of the periphery of Greenland has seen ocean heat increases in recent years, with the result that 20 - 80% of all the mass lost by Greenland's glaciers in recent years could be attributed to melting of the glaciers by warmer waters attacking them from beneath. Ocean temperatures along the southwest coast of Greenland (60N to 70N, 60W to 50W) computed from the UK Hadley Center data set during 2010 were 2.9°C (5.2°F) above average--a truly remarkable anomaly, and far warmer than the previous record of 1.5°C above average set in 2003. Sea surface temperature records for Greenland began in the 1920s. A study earlier this year published in the journal Science (Spielhagen et al., 2011) found that ocean temperatures on the east side of Greenland are now at their warmest levels in at least 2,000 years. The researchers studied a sediment core containing fossil remains of planktic foraminifers, which vary as a function of water temperature. The study noted that not only have the waters flowing northward on the east side of Greenland warmed significantly, the volume of water flowing north has also increased, resulting in a large transport of heat into the Arctic. "Such an increased heat input has far-reaching consequences," they wrote.


Figure 2. Departure of sea surface temperature from average for 2010 from the NOAA Daily Optimum Interpolation SST Anomaly data set for October 2010. Areas colored red are warmer than the 1971-2000 average, areas colored blue are cooler than that average. A large region of record warm water temperatures extended along the west coast of Greenland, leading to record warm air temperatures and record melting along the western portion of Greenland in 2010. Ocean temperatures along the southwest coast of Greenland (60N to 70N, 60W to 50W) computed from the UK Hadley Center data set during 2010 were 2.9°C (5.2°F) above average--a truly remarkable anomaly, surpassing the previous record of 1.5°C set in 2003. Sea surface temperature records for Greenland began in the 1920s. Image credit: NOAA Visualization Lab.

Record warmth and melting in Greenland during 2010
Greenland's climate in 2010 was marked by record-setting high air temperatures, the greatest ice loss by melting since accurate records began in 1958, and the greatest mass loss of ocean-terminating glaciers on record. That was the conclusion of the 2010 Arctic Report Card, a collaborative effort between NOAA and European Arctic experts that comes out each year. Was 2010 the warmest year in Greenland's history? That is difficult to judge. We know it was also very warm in the late 1920s and 1930s in Greenland, but we only have two stations, Godtahab Nuuk and Angmagssalik, with weather records that go back that far (Figure 3.) Godtahab Nuuk set a record high in 2010, but temperatures at Angmagssalik in 2010 were similar to what was observed during several years in the 1920s and 1930s. Marco Tedesco of the City College of New York's Cryosphere Processes Laboratory remarked that last year's record warmth and melting in Greenland began when an unusually early spring warm spell reduced and "aged" the snow on the surface of the ice sheet, so that the snow became less reflective, allowing it to absorb more heat from the sun. This accelerated snow melt even further, exposing the bare ice, which is less reflective than snow and absorbs more heat. This feedback loop extended Greenland's record melting season well into the fall.


Figure 3. Historic temperatures in Greenland for the six stations with at least 50 years of data, as archived by NASA. Three of the six stations set record highs in 2010. However, only two of the six stations (Godtahab Nuuk and Angmagssalik) have data going back beyond the 1930s, which was a period of warmth in Greenland similar to the warmth of the current decade. Godtahab Nuuk set a record high in 2010, but 2003 still ranks as Angmagssalik's hottest year on record.


Figure 4. The 2010 summer melt season was lasted more than 40 days longer (purple colors) than the mean melt season from 1979 - 2007. Image credit: Arctic Report Card.

Why Greenland matters: sea level rise
The major concern with a warming climate in Greenland is melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which currently contributes about 25% of the observed 3 mm/year (1.2 inches per decade) global rise in sea level. Higher sea levels mean increased storm surge inundation, coastal erosion, loss of low-lying land areas, and salt water contamination of underground drinking water supplies. Greenland ice mass loss is accelerating over the long term, according to independent estimates using three different techniques (Figure 5), with more mass being lost each year than the previous year. According to Rignot et al., 2011, ice mass loss is also accelerating in Antarctica, and "the magnitude of the acceleration suggests that ice sheets will be the dominant contributors to sea level rise in forthcoming decades, and will likely exceed the IPCC projections for the contribution of ice sheets to sea level rise in the 21st century." As I discussed in a 2009 blog post, How much will global sea level rise this century?, the IPCC in 2007 estimated that global sea level would rise 0.6 - 1.9 feet by 2100, but several studies since then predict a higher range of 1.6 - 6.6 feet.

During the warm period 125,000 years ago, before the most recent ice age, roughly half of the Greenland ice sheet melted. This melting plus the melting of other smaller Arctic ice fields is thought to have caused 7.2 - 11.2 feet (2.2 - 3.4 meters) of the 13 - 20 foot (4 - 6 meter) sea level rise observed during that period. Temperatures in Greenland are predicted to rise 3°C by 2100, to levels similar to 125,000 years ago. If this level of warming occurs, we can expect sea levels to rise 13 - 20 feet several centuries from now. There's enough water locked away in the ice sheet to raise sea level to rise 23 feet (7 meters), should the entire Greenland ice sheet melt.


Figure 5. Loss of mass from Greenland's ice sheet in gigatons per year from 1992 through 2009, as computed from satellite gravity measurements from the GRACE satellites (red line) and from a mass balance method. The mass balance method computes the amount of snow on the surface, the amount of ice mass lost to wind and melt, and the amount of ice lost computed from glacier velocity and ice thickness. Adding together these terms gives the total amount of ice lost or gained over the ice sheet. The acceleration is given in gigatons per year squared. Another paper by Zwally et al. (2011) used a third method, laser satellite altimetry, to determine Greenland mass loss. Between 2003 to 2007, the ice sheet lost 171 gigatons of mass per year. Between 1992 to 2002, Greenland was only losing only 7 gigatons per year. Image credit: Rignot et al., 2011, Geophysical Research Letters.

References
Rignot, E., et al., 2011: Acceleration of the contribution of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets to sea level rise, Geophysical Research Letters, in press, doi:10.1029/2011GL046583.

Spielhagen, et al., 2011, Enhanced Modern Heat Transfer to the Arctic by Warm Atlantic Water, Science 28 January 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6016 pp. 450-453 DOI: 10.1126/science.1197397

Zwally, J., et al., 2011, Greenland ice sheet mass balance: distribution of increased mass loss with climate warming; 2003 - 07 versus 19922 - 2002, Journal of Glaciology, Vol. 57, No. 201, 2011.

Wunderground's climate change section has a Greenland web page with detailed information and references.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Drakoen:


Good news. The NOGAPS is a poor forecast model anyways. The CMC has proven to be somewhat competent with a skill score not too dissimilar from the GFS.


I agree, NOGAPS has not kept up in terms of model improvements. Find it ironic that not many years ago the CMC was referred to as "Can't Model Crap".
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1038. Skyepony (Mod)
PlazaRed~ I can only imagine if your prior speed limit was law around here.

Looks like the storm should come a little closer, maybe get a little warmer cored before it drifts off again. I posted a satellite of it this morning.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36087
Guy at work has a pic of his diesel for sale outside of his office, Big ol dooly, asking for $31,900!! lol, Yea I think I'll buy it while gas is heading for $3.50 gallon

Plus it has 55,000 miles
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1035. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting twincomanche:


Black helicopters, don't forget them.

and AI robots to keep us all in line no human interface just "OSP" 3 laws obey serve protect.

LOL
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Like how the tough guys in their big trucks are driving the freeways, Vorummmmm!! passing everybody up in those big V8 diesels, not hauling anything. Keep on fools, burn that fuel up cuz your dumbass is paying for it at the pumps, lol
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1032. hydrus
Quoting Drakoen:


Good news. The NOGAPS is a poor forecast model anyways. The CMC has proven to be somewhat competent with a skill score not too dissimilar from the GFS.
Lol..Wuzup Drak...NOGAPS is crap...If it was even 50% accurate, Nicaragua would have been wiped off the face of the Earth. NOGAPS had at least 8 tropical cyclones hitting that region last year...
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19537
1030. Drakoen
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
NHC may remove NOGAPS from the TCON and TVCN consensus models (slide 13), and may (gasp) add CMCI to TVCN (slide 14).



Link


Good news. The NOGAPS is a poor forecast model anyways. The CMC has proven to be somewhat competent with a skill score not too dissimilar from the GFS.
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Quoting Patrap:
Maybe see whats coming to America sooner than later.

Check the England and Euro prices per liter/gal.

Then reality may set in.







Price of a liter of petrol/diesel just north of Algeciras oil refinery, Spain today is about 1.30 Euros, this equals about $1.82/liter.
I am using today's exchange rate of $1.40 to the Euro.
There are approx 3,8 liters to a US gallon
This gives us a price if we were using dollars of about $6.91 per US gallon.

Prices are expected to rise and the price in the UK is about 20% higher than Europe, or around $8.30 a US gallon.
These prices are approximate but not far off.

Today the Spanish government reduced the maximum speed on any road in Spain to 110 KPH or about 68 MPH, this will stay in force until at least June 2011, in reality probably indefinitely, most of the re-signaling was done by sticking a '1' over the '2' on the road signs of 120KPH, cost to government of $200,000, novel idea.

On a different note we have a very nasty looking storm out to the south west of Spain. Anybody know where its going to next?
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1024. kwgirl
Quoting Jax82:
Hmmm interesting radar echoes east of Gainesville. No clouds on visible, doesnt appear to be fire related. Thoughts anyone? Alien spacecraft perhaps?




Visible
Alien spacecraft flying the missing man formation.LOL
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1023. hydrus
Quoting Neapolitan:

No, it's what's known as "deliberate obfuscation". Defund the scientists, and the scientists can't produce the data that shows the globe is warming. Then just use the media conglomerates you own to say, "See, there's no proof the planet is warming! It was all a hoax after all!"

The 400 wealthiest Americans now own more assets than the 155 million "poorest" Americans combined. That insane inequality allows those wealthy few to control the government, the media, and--unfortunately--the minds of far too many, most of whom are now convinced that those wealthy few have their best interests, and America's, at heart.

Very, very sad...
When "greed" was put on the seven deadly sins list, it should have been put at the top.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19537

I see what you mean about the radar not matching the clouds.
Those for E-W Rain whisps don't match the visible images near Gainesville.
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NHC may remove NOGAPS from the TCON and TVCN consensus models (slide 13), and may (gasp) add CMCI to TVCN (slide 14).



Link
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1018. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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1017. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting melwerle:
Link

Still sitting here waiting for the 6.2

Great...and he listed his primary source as Weather Underground too. Be prepared for the barrage of trolls.
he is off by .6 may be a 6.8 or 6.9 no more than a 7.1


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Quoting Minnemike:


chaff released by military operations.


Yep that was more than likely exactly what it is.
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Quoting melwerle:
Link

Still sitting here waiting for the 6.2

Great...and he listed his primary source as Weather Underground too. Be prepared for the barrage of trolls.

90%, huh? The USGS puts the odds at about 0.00011% (1/9000). A small difference of opinion, no? ;-)
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1014. xcool



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1013. Jax82
I rarely post stuff thats online referenced but its national geographic so i figured it was credible. Anyhow since this blog is global warming this and that lately, here's some news on contrails and the effects it can have on temperatures.

airplane contrails boost global warming, study suggests
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1012. Jax82
Quoting alfabob:


Could be chaff or fine particles of aluminum which light up on the radar but not visible. They've been attempting to inject sulfur into the atmosphere for a while now. Most simple way is combining a pyrotechnic mixture of fine aluminum and barium sulfate. Barium and aluminum have also been showing up in my water supply coinciding with increased air traffic and large contrails which do not fade during days of high pressure.


Thanks for the explanation! I've never seen it that bad before, but definately interesting stuff. The stuff we put into our atmosphere these days :\
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:

What amazes me, Patrap, is that I constantly hear that more time is needed to gather and to study the data concerning AGW. Now they wish to defund any attempts to achieve this goal. Is this what is as known as anal retentive?

No, it's what's known as "deliberate obfuscation". Defund the scientists, and the scientists can't produce the data that shows the globe is warming. Then just use the media conglomerates you own to say, "See, there's no proof the planet is warming! It was all a hoax after all!"

The 400 wealthiest Americans now own more assets than the 155 million "poorest" Americans combined. That insane inequality allows those wealthy few to control the government, the media, and--unfortunately--the minds of far too many, most of whom are now convinced that those wealthy few have their best interests, and America's, at heart.

Very, very sad...
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Quoting Jax82:
Hmmm interesting radar echoes east of Gainesville. No clouds on visible, doesnt appear to be fire related. Thoughts anyone? Alien spacecraft perhaps?




Visible


chaff released by military operations.
Member Since: July 31, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1320
1008. Jax82
Hmmm interesting radar echoes east of Gainesville. No clouds on visible, doesnt appear to be fire related. Thoughts anyone? Alien spacecraft perhaps?




Visible
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Link

Still sitting here waiting for the 6.2

Great...and he listed his primary source as Weather Underground too. Be prepared for the barrage of trolls.
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Quoting Patrap:
The GOP decides accurate weather forecasting and hurricane tracking are luxuries America can’t afford
Republicans try to defund NOAA’s satellite program -- just as climate change is making the weather much more extreme.
February 18, 2011





That’s an ugly forecast. Tragically, it’s also 100 percent accurate.

– Michael Conathan is Director of Oceans Policy at American Progress.
What amazes me, Patrap, is that I constantly hear that more time is needed to gather and to study the data concerning AGW. Now they wish to defund any attempts to achieve this goal. Is this what is as known as anal retentive?
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Quoting Patrap:
Maybe see whats coming to America sooner than later.

Check the England and Euro prices per liter/gal.

Then reality may set in.





Good afternoon. CI$5.15=US$6.44 down here. It's rough and gonna get rougher.
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1003. hydrus
Quoting cat5hurricane:

Hydrus, you're killing me!!!
This pattern is killing me too..Seems like every 4 or five days I am picking up a huge mess and some people die...Not good..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19537
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


looks like a mod risk for severe coming up


Well, I'll just enjoy this beautiful sunshine today and "worry about that tomorrow". Hope this precip has helped with the droughts....:)
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
1001. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)


looks like a mod risk for severe coming up
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1000. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
and they announced this morning that food prices will increase 5 percent in ontario effective april 1 to reflect rising fuel costs and more increases are likly as we progress towards summer
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Quoting Patrap:
Maybe see whats coming to America sooner than later.

Check the England and Euro prices per liter/gal.

Then reality may set in.





we are at $1.14 a litre 3.87l per gallon $4.41 gallon
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Maybe see whats coming to America sooner than later.

Check the England and Euro prices per liter/gal.

Then reality may set in.





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Quoting RitaEvac:
I think I can, I think I can!

WTI Crude Oil
$105.59 ▲$1.17
DRILL, BABY, DRILL...In Arlington, TX, gas prices have gone from $2.95 to $3.39/gallon in 2 1/2 weeks.

At this rate, we'll be at $4.00/gallon by 3-31-11..

Let's see..2002 Ford Ranger P/U. A 17 gallon gas tank. Hmm, 17 x 4= $68.00 to fill her up.

Gadhafi has gotta go. Saudi Arabia needs to allow more political freedoms, or I would hate to think of the gas prices if their is a disruption in their oil production.
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Quoting Cochise000:


I see those who believe in AGW are getting "their ducks in a row." Preparing for the new surface temperature station study. I've already seen posts bashing the study before the results are released.

And rightly so; it's a Big Energy-financed project headed by a known "skeptic" who works for polluters, and employing but a single actual climate scientist, one who is a well-known for her controversial and unscientific opinions on GW.

Sigh...

All-in-all, it sounds to me like those doctors back in the 80s who were on the Big Tobacco payroll, rolling out their own numerous "studies" that proved tobacco smoke not only couldn't harm people, but may actually be beneficial. Oh, yeah: and all those "alarmists" who thought the link between cigarette smoke and ill health was pretty well-defined were accused of being in it for the lucrative grant money. Sound familiar? ;-)
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Quoting Cochise000:


Earthquakes of the same magnitude were happening in the late 1960s long before any injection wells were in operation. Most of my family on my mother's side still live in the area. Several of my cousins live in Greenbrier. There are injection wells all over the state and along the fault line. It's difficult to believe the quakes would be confined to that specific area if it were the wells actually causing the quakes. I'm not totally ruling it out, but I'll bet this temporary work-stoppage will be exactly that -- temporary.

Even if you're right, the quakes are enough to scare the folks at the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission; they're the ones that imposed the emergency suspension.

NOTE: I have two Oklahoma relatives employed by True Energy Services, the parent company of one of the two drillers told to lay off until an investigation is done. FWIW, one (a nephew) told me by phone on Saturday that he believes the quakes are his company's fault.
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Fascinating..

Maybe Blog about it in a entry?

Global Climate Change Indicators

Maybe also note the term "indicator's" as well.

How do we know the Earth's climate is warming?

Thousands of land and ocean temperature measurements are recorded each day around the globe.

This includes measurements from climate reference stations, weather stations, ships, buoys and autonomous gliders in the oceans.

These surface measurements are also supplemented with satellite measurements. These measurements are processed, examined for random and systematic errors, and then finally combined to produce a time series of global average temperature change.

A number of agencies around the world have produced datasets of global-scale changes in surface temperature using different techniques to process the data and remove measurement errors that could lead to false interpretations of temperature trends. The warming trend that is apparent in all of the independent methods of calculating global temperature change is also confirmed by other independent observations, such as the melting of mountain glaciers on every continent, reductions in the extent of snow cover, earlier blooming of plants in spring, a shorter ice season on lakes and rivers, ocean heat content, reduced arctic sea ice, and rising sea levels.


Happy Lundi Gras
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Thank you Miss, may I have another....And a nother.... And another..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19537

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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.