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

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

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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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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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
114 hours..maybe not
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 17915
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Should the US get unscathed this year by a major hurricane, it really would raise the question are we looking at a persistent pattern of decreased landfalls in the US for the future? I mean since the '05 season we haven't had a major hurricane hit the US. Gustav and Ike were a strong 2 and Irene was a strong 1. I know I know some you all will say it still did major damage and I understand that judging by the pictures, but still only 3 notable storms that have impacted the US since '05 which was 7 years ago.
You have a very good point. Even before the hyperactive phase that began in 1995, we would not" usually :)"go this long without a major hurricane striking somewhere in the U.S. I do believe that there will be more named storms then predicted this year.
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Quoting ncstorm:
Dont the Low have to detach itself from the monsoonal trough before they will put a circle around it?





No.
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98L:

Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
108 hours..closed low heading for the islands..looking the 12z run

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 17915
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Dont the Low have to detach itself from the monsoonal trough before they will put a circle around it?



Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 17915

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96 hours
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 17915
Quoting BahaHurican:
Anybody besides me noticing how extensive the area of turning associated with that EAtl low is?

no its there its been noticed waiting on latest hemispheric sat image
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Quoting CaribBoy:
The CV wave will be mentioned at 8PM.. 10 or 20%.. Bets are opened.

It won't be.
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Quoting ilovehurricanes13:
send me the link i can not see it.


I gave it to you yesterday. Save it this time. :P
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.
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting BahaHurican:
I do. I expected to hold on to more of it during Dmin yesterday; when it shed just about all of it, I figured they wouldn't classify.

U guys do realize this feature is up E and NE of Newfoundland???


Convection doesn't just vanish during dmin. That's what I meant when I said there wasn't enough consistency in the convection.
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Quoting Civicane49:
18z GFS 168 hours:

Ain't seeing noth'in.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 20746
18z GFS running..84 hours

talking about a wave train

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 17915
Quoting BahaHurican:
Anybody with a phase diagram on 98L? I gotta link for them, but have to dig very deep to find it...


ECMWF:



GFS:



UKMET:



CMC:



NOGAPS:



The NOGAPS had the poorest initialization by far.

Link to anyone who wants it.
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.
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting Tribucanes:
98L was not the NHC's finest hour. Little confused by the 20% they left up today; all day. It's like they utterly ignored what was happening with it. 98L is identical to several that received titles so I'm surprised they didn't handle this better. All conditions were clearly met for it to be named. I watched it make a beautiful convection comeback starting last night about two, so I may be a little too emotionally attached to this one. :)
I agree with you I stay until 4am local time to see if convection comeback I thought they will had renumber today.
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18Z GFS is running :)
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 7112
Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
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.

Looking at our meltwater discharge measurements and doing some simple calculus, we're guessing the glacier's catchment area is now losing 1 cubic mile of ice every three weeks.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/expeditions/2 012/07/25/following-the-ice-camp-lifenot-for-the-f aint-of-heart/


One (at least, I do) has to wonder if 2012 will be remembered as an exceptional year in terms of glaciers melting, or if this trend will continue. :/ Probably the latter.
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Quoting flsky:

There's a difference?
JOKE! lol
Though there is some Biblical reference at the end of Mark regarding the power of Christians to pick up snakes.... though I have a feeling they were not "charming" them... more like stunning them... lol
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting KoritheMan:


To my mind there was never enough persistent convection. But I know not many here will agree with me on that.
I do. I expected to hold on to more of it during Dmin yesterday; when it shed just about all of it, I figured they wouldn't classify.

U guys do realize this feature is up E and NE of Newfoundland???
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Quoting Tribucanes:
98L was not the NHC's finest hour. Little confused by the 20% they left up today; all day. It's like they utterly ignored what was happening with it. 98L is identical to several that received titles so I'm surprised they didn't handle this better. All conditions were clearly met for it to be named. I watched it make a beautiful convection comeback starting last night about two, so I may be a little too emotionally attached to this one. :)
I didn't go back to bed until after 4 a.m., and it was still looking too shabby then for them to feel like doing anything about it... I think a lot of their thinking had to do with a) how close the other features were to 98L, and the likelihood that it would be absorbed and b) how soon it would transition to extratropical today [within 24 hours?].

Anybody with a phase diagram on 98L? I gotta link for them, but have to dig very deep to find it...
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Makes sense to me Kori. I just like questioning those who know vastly more than me on the subject. :)
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
Quoting Tribucanes:
98L was not the NHC's finest hour. Little confused by the 20% they left up today; all day. It's like they utterly ignored what was happening with it. 98L is identical to several that received titles so I'm surprised they didn't handle this better. All conditions were clearly met for it to be named. I watched it make a beautiful convection comeback starting last night about two, so I may be a little too emotionally attached to this one. :)


To my mind there was never enough persistent convection. But I know not many here will agree with me on that.
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Quoting CaribBoy:
The CV wave will be mentioned at 8PM.. 10 or 20%.. Bets are opened.


Agree, I go with 20%.
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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.

Looking at our meltwater discharge measurements and doing some simple calculus, we're guessing the glacier's catchment area is now losing 1 cubic mile of ice every three weeks.

Consider that this is just one glacier of hundreds spilling off the Greenland Ice Sheet and that where we are in west Greenland, only moderate net ice loss was expected. In southern Greenland, ice loss will be much greater.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/expeditions/2 012/07/25/following-the-ice-camp-lifenot-for-the-f aint-of-heart/



This huge pressure gradient causes katabatic winds to rip off the ice sheet. Turbulent warm air melts more ice than still, warm air, so we can expect even more ice melt this month. As of today, the wind has been blowing non-stop between 30-50 mph for three days. If we weren't living in tents surrounded by sand dunes, this would be easier. As I sit here scratching my head wondering if it's a step up or down from the mosquitoes, I'm coming to the conclusion that there may not be enough shampoo in the whole world to rinse all the sand out of my hair.

... a month ago, when our friend the raven decided to fish through the pit every day to pull out our wayward forks, knives, and spoons. We delight every time we find a spoon or fork lying next to the slops pit and excitedly put them back into circulation. The raven's other skills include opening packages of beans and spreading them through camp, ripping through our mess tent's mosquito netting to eat crackers, and landing on top of our sleeping tents in the middle of the night to make alarmingly loud crackling noises. There may not be a more startling way to wake from a deep sleep but we do appreciate the job he does with the forks.

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Quoting CaribBoy:
The CV wave will be mentioned at 8PM.. 10 or 20%.. Bets are opened.


I'm going to say it won't be.
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Blog Update Caribbean Storm Update July 25th 2012






Link


Link
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98L was not the NHC's finest hour. Little confused by the 20% they left up today; all day. It's like they utterly ignored what was happening with it. 98L is identical to several that received titles so I'm surprised they didn't handle this better. All conditions were clearly met for it to be named. I watched it make a beautiful convection comeback starting last night about two, so I may be a little too emotionally attached to this one. :)
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
Anybody besides me noticing how extensive the area of turning associated with that EAtl low is?

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after a brief cool down and refreeze more warming on tap for greenland beginning fri/sat and continuing till late next week as per 1000mb surface forecast model gfxs 10 day run
also continuing heat and dry conditions for north america all the way to the high arctic

faster faster

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648. flsky
Quoting OldLeatherneck:


That's about as likely as the Pope attending a conference of "Snake Charmers".

There's a difference?
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The CV wave will be mentioned at 8PM.. 10 or 20%.. Bets are opened.
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 7112
So was the NAO negative or positive in December? [That was so long ago...]
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Quoting BobWallace:


A bit more detail...

Beef prices are expected to drop around November as the drought-caused sale cattle come to the grocery store. And then prices will take off.

When/if rains return next spring there will be fewer breeders available to produce lots of calves to recover from the sell off.

With the Texas drought we saw some ranchers just throw in the towel and get out of the cattle business. They lost their breeding stock which they had spent years developing and decided they didn't want to start over.
..long term this could be bad news huh,add higher food prices to the bad economy,higher gas prices geez..it just keeps coming
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 56985
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Everyone have a safe and quiet evening. That non-tropical low is getting the best of parts of North Florida at the moment. The low is drying up but the t-storms have migrated north over land and given some extra punch to the normal sea breeze pop up storms.


See Yall in the morning.
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 12010
One for dabirds:

RECORD EVENT REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ST LOUIS MO
0425 PM CDT WED JUL 25 2012

...RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE SET AT ST. LOUIS...

A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 107 DEGREES HAS BEEN SET AT ST. LOUIS
TODAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 106 SET IN 1934.

TODAY ALSO MARKS THE 11TH DAY THIS YEAR WITH A TEMPERATURE GREATER
THAN OR EQUAL TO 105 DEGREES. THIS IS A NEW RECORD FOR A CALENDAR
YEAR. THE OLD RECORD WAS 10 DAYS IN 1934.
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Quoting LargoFl:
..i think someone this morning said that was a controlled burn near cape canaveral
I was trying to find a webcam of the area but couldn't see much. I figured it was a fire.
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Quoting PRweathercenter:


we are very interested, we work in harmony with the NWS of San Juan, and Rafael Mojica the directer.
I might email him about the wave in the EATL, but he's super busy!! :-(


I hope he can soon accord you a few moments of his precious time!
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 7112
About the Saffir-Simpson scale discussion, the scale itself is purely based on windspeed and how to categorize it in terms of potential severity. I'd personally use the Hurricane Severity Index way of seeing things. For example; the Saffir-Simpson scale only has 7 measurements of severity (6 in some areas), while the HSI is theoretically unlimited (Hurricane Carla from 1961 for example was a 42 measurement which is {I think!} the highest in that scale recorded.) Not trying to cause anything, just saying there's more than one way to throw a frizbee.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
I'll be back later guys, going to take my little brother out for his birthday, you all play nice and enjoy the rest of the day.
..hope he has a great time GT
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 56985
Quoting MrBoujangles:
Does anyone live near Cape Canaveral? I don't think this is natural precip.
..i think someone this morning said that was a controlled burn near cape canaveral
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 56985

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Dr. Masters (r) co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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