Greenland experiences melting over 97% of its area in mid-July

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:58 PM GMT on July 25, 2012

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Son Nghiem of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, was analyzing radar data from the Indian Space Research Organization's Oceansat-2 satellite last week when he noticed that 97% of Greenland appeared to have undergone surface melting on July 12--an event completely unprecedented in 30 years of satellite measurements. In a July 24 press release from NASA, Nghiem said, "This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?" Multiple satellite data sets confirmed the remarkable event, though. Melt maps derived from three different satellites showed that on July 8, about 40 percent of the ice sheet's surface had melted, as a strong ridge of high pressure set up over Greenland. By July 12, the melting had expanded to cover 97% of Greenland. As I blogged about last week, temperatures at at the top of the Greenland Ice Sheet, 10,551 feet (3216 meters) above sea level, and 415 miles (670 km) north of the Arctic Circle, had risen above the freezing mark four times in the 12-year span 2000 - 2011. But in mid-July 2012, temperatures eclipsed the freezing mark on five days, including four days in a row from July 11 - 14. Interestingly, ice core records show that in 1889, a similar pronounced melt event occurred at the top of the Greenland Ice Sheet, and such events occur naturally about every 150 years. "But if we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome," said Lora Koenig, a NASA/Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data. Such an event could occur as early as this weekend: the latest wunderground forecast for the Greenland Summit calls for above-freezing temperatures to return again by Saturday through Tuesday, with a high of 36°F (2°C) on Tuesday. This would come close to the record warm temperature at Summit of 3.6°C set just two weeks ago. Exceptionally warm temperatures in Greenland this July have been made more likely by the fact that Arctic sea ice area has been at record low levels so far this month. Furthermore, the Greenland Ice Sheet has become darker this July than at any point since satellite measurements began (Figure 2), allowing Greenland to absorb more solar energy and heat up.


Figure 1. Extent of surface melt over Greenland's ice sheet on July 8 (left) and July 12 (right). Measurements from three satellites showed that on July 8, about 40 percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12. Image credit: NASA.



Figure 2. The albedo (reflectivity) of the Greenland Ice Sheet at its highest elevations (2,500 - 3,200 meters, or 8,200 - 10,500 feet) has steadily decreased in recent years as the ice has darkened due to increased melting and dark soot being deposited on the ice from air pollution. This July, the high elevations of Greenland were the darkest on record, which helped contribute to the record warm temperatures observed at the Greenland Summit. Image credit: Dr. Jason Box, Ohio State University.


Video 1. Melt water from the record July temperatures in Greenland fed the raging Watson River, which smashed two bridges connecting the north and south of Kangerlussuaq (Sønder Strømfjord), a small settlement in southwestern Greenland. The flow rate of 3.5 million liters/sec was almost double the previous record flow rate.

Greenland's Petermann Glacier
Greenland's glaciers have seen significant changes in recent years, as they respond to warmer air and water temperatures. Northwest Greenland's Petermann Glacier has seen two massive calving events in the past two years, though it is uncertain if these events were caused by the warming climate. The most recent event came on July 16, 2012, when the glacier calved a 46 square-mile iceberg two times the size of Manhattan. The same glacier calved an iceberg twice as big back on August 4, 2010--the largest iceberg observed in the Arctic since 1962. The freshwater stored in that 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. According to a university press release by Andreas Muenchow, associate professor of physical ocean science and engineering at the University of Delaware's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, “While the size is not as spectacular as it was in 2010, the fact that it follows so closely to the 2010 event brings the glacier’s terminus to a location where it has not been for at least 150 years. Northwest Greenland and northeast Canada are warming more than five times faster than the rest of the world, but the observed warming is not proof that the diminishing ice shelf is caused by this, because air temperatures have little effect on this glacier; ocean temperatures do, and our ocean temperature time series are only five to eight years long — too short to establish a robust warming signal.”


Figure 3. The massive 46 square-mile iceberg two times the size of Manhattan that calved from Greenland's Petermann Glacier on July 16, 2012, as seen on July 21, 2012, using MODIS satellite imagery. Image credit: NASA.

Related posts
Record warmth at the top of the Greenland Ice Sheet (July 18, 2012)
Unprecedented May heat in Greenland; update on 2011 Greenland ice melt
Greenland update for 2010: record melting and a massive calving event

Jeff Masters

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736. txjac
Quoting Patrap:
It was caused by the now commonly used term, the X Factor.

Courtesy of Big Energy, or in other words.

Us.


Thanks for responding Pat ... I guess then it couldnt be forecast or foreseen?

I have another question concerning the GW. When studies are done concerning ice melts ...are both poles ice measured? How does the south pole measure up against the north pole?
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735. txjac
Quoting wxchaser97:
Highly allergic to milk.


Wow, you do have issues ...lol
I dont know what I would do if I couldnt have pizza!
Poor babe
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It was caused by the now commonly used term, the X Factor.

Courtesy of Big Energy, or in other words.

Us.
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733. txjac
Concerning the Greenland ice melt ...high pressure caused this to happen so quickly? If this area is being monitored wouldnt someone have seen this getting ready to happen? I'm at a loss as to how this could not have been forecasted? How was this missed? Is it something that couldnt have been foreseen?
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Quoting ncstorm:
276 hours




way too far out max is 144 hrs out after that its normally useless
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
I actually believe from a climatology stand point we are in a slow period. This is what our period would have been deemed if it wasn't for increased satellite data naming storms that probably wouldn't have gotten named in years past. Because despite storms in the far Northern Atlantic not many storms of great magnitude have affected the Caribbean Islands and the U.S. in awhile
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


Well, there is that whole "tropopause water vapour being frozen out displaces CO2 warming considering water vapor is responsible for most of greenhouse gas effect" and somewhat less robust "CO2 IR wavelengths are saturated" theory.


The "CO2 IR wavelengths are saturated" hypothesis implies:
1) CO2 has a discontinuous, completely unsmooth spectrum of wavelength absorption.
2) The exact width of these absorption bands is entirely saturated throughout.
3) When saturated, an absorption cannot absorb & re-emit any more heat energy no matter the increase in concentration of the gas.

The main issue with this hypothesis lies with (1). The spectrum is not discontinuous. If one of the absorption bands is described as being at a wavelength of 100.0, that doesn't mean that there is no absorbtion at a wavelength of 99.999999 - it's a gradual decline away from the central value. As such, although the center wavelength of each CO2 absorption band may be saturated, it would not be be the case on either side (shorter wavelengths or longer wavelengths). This is related to why an increase in radiative forcing has a logarithmic relationship to an increase in greenhouse gas, not linear.

On a related note: Back when I was skeptical of climate change, this was one of the first arguments I tried to discuss with meteorology professors who were active-publishers in that area. I was subsequently corrected.
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I'm with Kori on this one...nothing showing up on the models, increased SAL in the Eastern Atlantic..High over the Rockies causing troughs over the Eastern U.S. *YAWN* Wake me up next June :)
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Your tooth?
Highly allergic to milk.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7950
Quoting wxchaser97:

Darn, I cant have pizza.


Your tooth?
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Want to hear mine? It starts with a b and ends with a g. Decipher and you get a pizza. On the house.

Darn, I cant have pizza. I dont think the NHC will use a yellow crayon on the wave off africa.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7950
Interesting n my small calculator you are loosing a cubic kilomter every 35 days at this rate of melt

654. CaicosRetiredSailor 11:48 PM CEST on July 25, 2012 7
The river coming out from beneath "our" glacier is running somewhere around 800 cubic meters per second, over twice what anyone's measured in previous seasons. During the entire 2011 melt season, our glacier's catchment area lost about 1 cubic mile of ice.


A square kilometer has 100000 sq meters in it.
So it takes 125 seconds to fill a sq kilometer up to 1 meter deep.
So it takes 125,000 seconds to fill a cubic kilomter.
So it will take about 35 days to flow a cubic kilometer. Interesting.
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276 hours




Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15696
Quoting ncstorm:
Sorry Global Warming Alarmists, The Earth Is Cooling

Central to these natural cycles is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). Every 25 to 30 years the oceans undergo a natural cycle where the colder water below churns to replace the warmer water at the surface, and that affects global temperatures by the fractions of a degree we have seen. The PDO was cold from the late 1940s to the late 1970s, and it was warm from the late 1970s to the late 1990s, similar to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).

Im in no way debating this issue..just posting an article...But also wanted to post this piece from the article which this blog should take note of

What you will see are calm, dispassionate presentations by serious, pedigreed scientists discussing and explaining reams of data.


I always love these kinds of articles. You can break them into two main arguments, without even reading most of it:
1) The earth's climate system is not warming, it's cooling.
2) That cooling is due to the PDO, and while we're at it, that means that the warming must have been due to the PDO, as well.

There is a serious, fatal flaw with this entire thought chain. Have I stopped beating my wife? ...I didn't stop beating....err, I mean, the globe is not cooling. Climate trends cannot be determined over short term periods, but instead 15-30 year periods. Weather and climate variability occur at smaller scales. Weather and climate variability are the manifestations of heat energy being transferred and accumulated in different areas of the climate system - as such, no energy is gained or lost to the earth's climate. Measurements of air/land/ocean do continue to show a warming trend for the climate system as a whole, even though over shorter, non-climatic periods there will be super-imposed ridges and troughs, which occur exactly as expected.

By the time the first claim in the chain is resoundingly rejected by actual data, the rest of the claims really do not matter.
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
I'm gonna go with Kori on this one, no yellow crayon on the wave at 8pm!
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264 hours
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15696
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228 hours..

wave moving through the bahamas
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15696
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting Civicane49:
I think the tropical wave near the Cape Verde Islands would not be mentioned in the next Tropical Weather Outlook.
Probably not, but I think it deserves a mention.
Quoting Tribucanes:
I see wxchaser97 they issued the WW in a totally different area than the meso discussion was for. Wonder if the meso they were expecting to develop and affect N. Wisconsin and Michigan is still expected to develop. Silly question, I have an air conditioner, if on while an intense lightening event is happening; is it so much of a conductor that I should shut it off?
The SPC still expects a mcs to form as of their latest outlook. Will this materialize, I really dont know. As for your question, unplug or turn off all electronics and stay away from them in a thunderstorm if you can.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7950
The tropical Atlantic is firmly under SAL's control *cough* these days. He's not gonna' let anything happen in his neighborhood unless he wets his beak.
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting ncstorm:
18z Nogaps is running now

From what, a reliable forecast?....Haaaaaa.jk....really...jk..;)
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I see wxchaser97 they issued the WW in a totally different area than the meso discussion was for. Wonder if the meso they were expecting to develop and affect N. Wisconsin and Michigan is still expected to develop. Silly question, I have an air conditioner, if on while an intense lightening event is happening; is it so much of a conductor that I should shut it off?
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
174 hours
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15696
622 MississippiWx: Therein lies the problem of our Saffir-Simpson scale. I believe it has been adjusted since then to account for surge impacts. Ike obviously had the surge of a major hurricane, but it was "toned down" because of winds less than major hurricane force.

To be fair...
The NationalHurricaneCenter did issue an Evacuate or Die coastal warning for Ike, including its expectation that the accompanying storm surge would be MAJOR enough to cause MAJOR damage.
And too many folks, especially including the private-sector professional meteorologists who were advising the area governments, just read 'Cat.2' and went "pffft... The NHC don' know what they're talking about."
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
I think the tropical wave near the Cape Verde Islands would not be mentioned in the next Tropical Weather Outlook.
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting wxchaser97:
My opinion on the tropics:

I agree with this
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Quoting wxchaser97:
My opinion on the tropics:


Want to hear mine? It starts with a b and ends with a g. Decipher and you get a pizza. On the house.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
here is the big picture baha



could be somin down the road but we have to wait a while longer not much too it but the twist
I was just thinking that's some pretty hefty gyring there... that size might contribute to the staving off of dust and the clearing of the lane for the next AEW or three...

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My opinion on the tropics:
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7950
Quoting mcluvincane:
Way to early for the wave train guys.... mid August then you will see the true wave train choo choo
Train's already left the station... just in quiet mode for now.

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156 hours
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15696
Quoting yoboi:


i kept saying artic ice melt was clear as day saying ice melt with all the planes ships tractors and burning of fossil fuels in that area and i was bashed really good....saying that it was not that big a deal and now today in DR M's blog he says DARKEST ICE and don't see anyone bashing him....


Your comments claimed that the ships and planes in the Arctic were the sources of black carbon. People were correcting you because those are not the main sources of black carbon. Estimates of globally averaged sources for black carbon put transportation sources at maybe 10-20%. Energy production in developing countries is the largest factor, probably 30-50%. Considering that the number of ships/planes/automobiles in the Arctic region is barely a blip when compared to all global transportation, that would explain why people indicated that your post was incorrect.

It was not a conspiracy, it was not some "pounce-attack" where people just wanted say that you were wrong no matter what. People called you out because your statistics didn't make sense, and with just a little bit of research you would find similar numbers to me, helping you to correct your false claims.
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here is the big picture baha



could be somin down the road but we have to wait a while longer not much too it but the twist
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144 hours
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15696
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7950
Eastern Atlantic:

Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting Tribucanes:
Meso discussion for Wisconsin was dropped after they gave it an 80% of a WW. Cap is popping fast, going to be exploding here soon. Meso will be back up or they'll just go straight to a WW soon.
There will be a watch soon, usually when a meso like that goes down a watch comes up soon after, I think.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7950
18z Nogaps is running now

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15696
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Meso discussion for Wisconsin was dropped after they gave it an 80% of a WW. Cap is popping fast, going to be exploding here soon. Meso will be back up or they'll just go straight to a WW soon.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
Way to early for the wave train guys.... mid August then you will see the true wave train choo choo
Member Since: June 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1349
Quoting ncstorm:
126 hours..look like the low dissapates and the wave is affecting the lesser antilles

That probably happens because of unfavorable shear.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17095
Quoting KoritheMan:


ECMWF:



GFS:



UKMET:



CMC:



NOGAPS:



The NOGAPS had the poorest initialization by far.

Link to anyone who wants it.
This may explain some of the NHC's reluctance to classify... only 1 major model makes it symmetrical warm-core.
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126 hours..look like the low dissapates and the wave is affecting the lesser antilles

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15696
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting Minnemike:
Grothar.. curious what became of my brief visit to the blog last night.. seeing not only the rare appearance of an apology to Tropics(not w/o noticed caveat ;), but also a fine lesson on the word 'it'... Loved her!! ..i mean it ;)
you rock Gro!


I couldn't go into much detail, there Mike. for Obvious reasons. :)
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.