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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Quoting washingtonian115:
Hey K-man.I wish we could invest(lol) in putting a hurricane air force base on one of the Cape verde islands.Would be really helpful for storms that form that far out.

Agreed. We would be better able to assess the strength of storms that far out in the Atlantic.
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 14 Comments: 8978
Yoboi, keep your head up. While Patrap cleared that issue up nicely; your thinking, something to be said for that. I'm a lover of the science of weather and climate but I'm still a novice in most ways. I've made some absolutely ridiculous statements about blobs before. I don't think you were intentionally trying to mislead anyone, your analogy was just off.
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Quoting kmanislander:
Clean pass from OSCAT


Here is the ASCAT pass showing the spin, I know this is older but it still shows the spin:
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7982
Quoting nigel20:

Do you think that the Tropical wave off the coast of West Africa will develop?


Based on the models, I don't think that wave off the coast of Africa will develop. But few waves behind it might have a better chance.
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Quoting kmanislander:
Clean pass from OSCAT

Hey K-man.I wish we could invest(lol) in putting a hurricane air force base on one of the Cape verde islands.Would be really helpful for storms that form that far out.
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Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Nearly all of Greenland's massive ice sheet suddenly started melting a bit this month, a freak event that surprised scientists.


Even Greenland's coldest and highest place, Summit station, showed melting. Ice core records show that last happened in 1889 and occurs about once every 150 years.

Three satellites show what NASA calls unprecedented melting of the ice sheet that blankets the island, starting on July 8 and lasting four days. Most of the thick ice remains. While some ice usually melts during the summer, what was unusual was that the melting happened in a flash and over a widespread area.

"You literally had this wave of warm air wash over the Greenland ice sheet and melt it," NASA ice scientist Tom Wagner said Tuesday.

The ice melt area went from 40 per cent of the ice sheet to 97 per cent in four days, according to NASA. Until now, the most extensive melt seen by satellites in the past three decades was about 55 per cent.

Wagner said researchers don't know how much of Greenland's ice melted, but it seems to be freezing again.

"When we see melt in places that we haven't seen before, at least in a long period of time, it makes you sit up and ask what's happening?" NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati said. It's a big signal, the meaning of which we're going to sort out for years to come."

About the same time, a giant iceberg broke off from the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland. And the National Snow and Ice Data Center on Tuesday announced that the area filled with Arctic sea ice continues near a record low.

Wagner and other scientists said because this Greenland-wide melting has happened before they can't yet determine if this is a natural rare event or one triggered by man-made global warming. But they do know that the edges of Greenland's ice sheets have already been thinning because of climate change.

Summer in Greenland has been freakishly warm so far. That's because of frequent high pressure systems that have parked over the island, bringing warm clear weather that melts ice and snow, explained University of Georgia climatologist Thomas Mote.

He and others say it's similar to the high pressure systems that have parked over the American Midwest bringing record-breaking warmth and drought.

Ohio State University ice scientist Jason Box, who returned Tuesday from a three-week visit, said he ditched his cold weather gear for the cotton pants that he normally dons in Nevada.

"It was sunny and warm and all the locals were talking about how sunny it was," Box said after getting off a plane. "Beyond T-shirt weather."
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 192 Comments: 59095
Quoting LargoFl:
..nothing organized as of yet, though some good thunderstorms coming in


That's because I'm in Florida visiting my son. I must be a rain magnet when I'm here.
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the rain has just started by my house, no boomers yet
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Warm and unstable air will move back into southeastern Michigan today. There is the chance for a couple of rounds of showers and Thunderstorms today. The first round will come this afternoon as a thunderstorm complex advanced towards the region while the second will come towards midnight tonight. After a brief quiet stretch Thursday morning the potential will increase again Thursday afternoon.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7982
Quoting kmanislander:
Clean pass from OSCAT


Hey Kman! What's the weather like in your neck of the woods?
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 14 Comments: 8978
Quoting kmanislander:
Clean pass from OSCAT



Good spin in several miles southeast of the Cape Verde Islands.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Why don't ya'll just give up on the gulf blob..I mean I know we're desperate for a storm..but c'mon that desperate?


yes they are that desperate.
Imagine if it was a normal season and we'd had like one storm by now
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Humans yakking about Storms, here and there have no effect on their future.

: )
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Quoting Civicane49:


I've been fine.

Do you think that the Tropical wave off the coast of West Africa will develop?
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 14 Comments: 8978
Quoting aislinnpaps:
What is that huge green rain just southeast of me in Florida? Of course, the last time I was here we had the 'unorganized tropical storm' hit.
..nothing organized as of yet, though some good thunderstorms coming in
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Why don't ya'll just give up on the gulf blob..I mean I know we're desperate for a storm..but c'mon that desperate?
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Clean pass from OSCAT

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..wow some good ones headed towards me now, that 20% rain chance just went bye bye
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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....


The Soot is not from "Local" burning of Fuels buy Transportation, its from Global Input's, the Arctic has the Lowest numbers of Vehicles and plane,ships etc.

Your point is very vague and well, not thought out scientifically.
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What is that huge green rain just southeast of me in Florida? Of course, the last time I was here we had the 'unorganized tropical storm' hit.
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Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7982
Quoting nigel20:

I'm good...thanks for asking! How are you?


I've been fine.
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Gulf Of Mexico - Rainbow Loop
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98L is the fifth Gulf Stream/Loop Current storm we've seen this season, and may or may not get classified in the off-season. BAMM (BAM Medium) sends the storm over to Jakobshavn Isbrae (Sermeq Kujalleq), Greenland.
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Gulf, blob to be, surely won't develop will it? These blobs have been toying with us since last Saturday in the Gulf. I do agree with Bob, Yoboi, that you do walk a fine line at times. My last comment regarding your bashing was based off the little I could remember about that exchange. If I remember correctly the base argument you were making wasn't about the darkest ice ever caused by vehicles. Could you post it again to clarify what you did or didn't say? Is that even possible. I said what I did about it because I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
Quoting Civicane49:


Hey Nigel. How are you doing?

I'm good...thanks for asking! How are you?
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 14 Comments: 8978
............................Gee..look at the gulf off the coast
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Daily SOI: -0.2
30 Day SOI: -0.2
90 Day SOI: -4.0
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 14 Comments: 8978
I can tell you this system in the East Gulf is putting the clamps on any hopes of dry weather for C FL as there are some strong storms just to my west.

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Quoting nigel20:
Thanks Dr. Masters...good afternoon everyone!



Hey Nigel. How are you doing?
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I dont discuss ghost storms, as its kinda futile.



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NHC just gone on and name the little invest.It ain't harming anyone :).98L has made a stunning com back.Remember that gulf disturbance two years ago that had a 0% chance of development but then was bumped up to 60% in just one update?.Lol.I see the GFS does something with the wave south east of the cape verde islands....
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Quoting Patrap:
The Blog is never the important thing, the Storms are the focus.

Always.


I meant nuts as in a large number of post per minute. If something does form what would be the steering as whatever this is right now is stationary.

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000
AXPZ20 KNHC 251529
TWDEP

TROPICAL WEATHER DISCUSSION
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1605 UTC WED JUL 25 2012

TROPICAL WEATHER DISCUSSION FOR THE EASTERN PACIFIC OCEAN FROM
THE EQUATOR TO 32N...EAST OF 140W. THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS
BASED ON SATELLITE IMAGERY...WEATHER OBSERVATIONS...RADAR...AND
METEOROLOGICAL ANALYSIS.

BASED ON 1200 UTC SURFACE ANALYSIS AND SATELLITE IMAGERY THROUGH
1430 UTC.

...SPECIAL FEATURES...
A 1009 MB LOW PRESSURE CENTER IS NEAR 11N125W. THIS LOW CENTER
IS AT THE SOUTHERN EXTENT OF A TROPICAL WAVE THAT EXTENDS FROM
17N122W TO 14N124W TO THE LOW CENTER. SCATTERED STRONG
CONVECTIVE PRECIPITATION IS WITHIN 90 NM OF THE CENTER IN THE
EASTERN QUADRANTS...AND WITHIN 360 NM OF THE CENTER IN THE
SOUTHWESTERN QUADRANT. SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENT OF THIS FEATURE
INTO A TROPICAL CYCLONE IS NOT ANTICIPATED AS THE SYSTEM MOVES
WESTWARD OR WEST-NORTHWESTWARD 10 TO 15 MPH. THE LATEST 0728 UTC
HIGH RESOLUTION ASCAT PASS CONTINUED TO INDICATE 20 TO 30 KT
WINDS WITHIN 250 NM IN THE EASTERN SEMICIRCLE AWAY FROM THE LOW
CENTER. THIS SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE OF BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

...TROPICAL WAVES...
A TROPICAL WAVE IS ALONG 18N108W 13N110W 08N110W. THE WAVE IS
FORECAST TO CONTINUE MOVING WESTWARD DURING THE NEXT FEW DAYS.
THE LATEST COMPUTER MODEL GUIDANCE DOES NOT SUGGEST TROPICAL
CYCLONE DEVELOPMENT WITH THIS FEATURE. SCATTERED TO NUMEROUS
STRONG CONVECTIVE PRECIPITATION IS FROM 15N TO 17N BETWEEN
107W AND 110W.

...INTERTROPICAL CONVERGENCE ZONE/MONSOON TROUGH...
THE MONSOON TROUGH PASSES THROUGH 08N78W TO 09N86W TO 06N96W.
THE ITCZ CONTINUES FROM 06N96W TO 08N106W...AND FROM 10N128W
BEYOND 09N140W. CONVECTIVE PRECIPITATION...SCATTERED TO NUMEROUS
STRONG FROM 08N TO 11N BETWEEN 129W AND 135W...SCATTERED
MODERATE TO ISOLATED STRONG WITHIN 30 NM RADIUS OF 06N80W
AND 08N108W...AND FROM 10N TO 13N BETWEEN 100W AND 102W.

...DISCUSSION...
A SURFACE RIDGE PASSES THROUGH 32N136W 28N132W TO 25N118W TO
23N113W. THE PRESSURE GRADIENT BETWEEN THE SURFACE RIDGE AND
THE LOWER PRESSURE THAT IS IN THE VICINITY OF THE ITCZ IS
MAINTAINING FRESH TRADE WINDS FROM 09N TO 17N W OF 128W AS
DEPICTED BY THE LATEST OVERNIGHT ASCAT SCATTEROMETER PASS.
THE AREA OF FRESH TRADES WILL MAINTAIN ITSELF DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

A SURFACE TROUGH IS 11N136W 6N140W. EARLIER CONVECTIVE
PRECIPITATION THAT WAS ASSOCIATED WITH THIS TROUGH HAS
DISSIPATED.

FRESH 20 KT GULF OF PAPAGAYO GAP WINDS CONTINUE. THIS WEATHER
PATTERN WILL PERSIST FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS. THE WINDS WILL PEAK
NEAR 25 KT WINDS DURING THE LATE NIGHT AND EARLY MORNING HOURS
WITH THE AID OF NOCTURNALLY DRIVEN DRAINAGE FLOW.

$$
MT
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Thanks Dr. Masters...good afternoon everyone!

Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 14 Comments: 8978
img src="Photobucket">
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Quoting StormTracker2K:
I think the blog will go nuts if we have Ernesto here off the west coast of FL in a few days.

..sure does like like it alright
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Quoting BobWallace:
OK, we're seeing larger volumes of Arctic sea ice melting each year and now we're seeing larger melts of Greenland ice. This means larger amounts of cold water entering the Atlantic ocean current system.

What, if anything, does this mean for tropical weather?

Does it drive the Gulf Stream and other parts of the system faster? Cool them off? Move more heat further north and change large storm behavior? Cool parts of the ocean and create larger temperature differentials between water and air?

Anyone familiar with the physics of what is likely to happen?


This is what SST anomalies looked like two weeks ago:

12 July 2012

This is what they look like now:

24 July 2012

Typically when a large enough volume of ice melts from Greenland region, the areas north of the Gulf Stream will cool off as cold water surges down from the Labrador current, but anomalous eddies will probably still form in the Gulf Stream itself. In early January 2011, some parts of south-west Greenland were over 10C warmer than normal, and parts of eastern Nunavut up to 30C warmer than normal.

Edit...I give up. Go here, and enter in the indicated dates.
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The Blog is never the important thing, the Storms are the focus.

Always.
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I didn't bash ya on that one Yoboi. Some, I believe, took it as you were saying vehicles were causing GW and driving it an not primarily us. Your views are often off of center, much like mine; so it's easy to take out of context. It's always okay to ask for clarification from a person about what they meant; I'm trying to do that more often.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
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I think the blog will go nuts if we have Ernesto here off the west coast of FL in a few days.

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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Hey largo we may have a sleeper system in Gulf. What do you think as it's been there for days now.

..yes im watching this one closely because the clouds are rolling IN from the gulf, hope That stays out there, has high winds with it
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Quoting yoboi:
thanks DR M...good points

i got bashed most of last week talking about the impact ships,planes, tractors and daily burning of fossil fuels were impacting ice melt...darkest ice on record due to air pollution...and the biggest bashing i got was from pro gw peeps, i just don't understand..


Bull.

You dance the borderline....
Member Since: February 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1344

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

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