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 StormTracker2K:


The heat across the EAST and SE US may break next week as a trough settles in and this maybe a semi permant feature for several weeks once it build in this time next week.
If that's the case once again the U.S will be spared from the badies coming from Africa.No one can't tell me that someone is looking out for us..
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16444
Quoting JeffMasters:


When I composed my post, just the 00Z GFS run was out, which showed nothing much at 144 hours. Since then, the 06Z is showing something may happen around August 1, but it's unclear whether this is actually a TD, since it looks pretty weak.

Jeff Masters


morning doc with all the ice melt in high arctic
and extreme sst's over the lakes more so the northern ones
i am expecting a big delay with winter by the time the lakes cool down it may be early jan

i know its a little off the wall
but could winter be reduced to less than 2 months
or not occur at all along the southern regions of canada

seems that way last few seasons
seems fall and spring are longer
while winters shorter
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53308
I don't usually do this, but here is an e-mail from one of our friends who lives in Greenland. I don't think he would mind if I shared it. Have fun.

Hei, Haak, Hvordan har du det? Jeg håber du og din familie er godt. Jeg ved, du har læst vores små problemer her. Kan du tro det? Temperaturerne har været meget varm, når du ja kender. Vores små gletsjere smelter. Det er ikke det land, du husker. Vi har forskere fra Danmark, Norge og USA, men de ser bare og ryster på hovedet. Oversvømmelserne er af stor bekymring på grund af vores skrøbelige broer. Har det godt og hilsner til alle. Og Haak, svaret på norsk, hvis du vil. Dansk er allerede ødelagt her NOK. (smiler)
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:



??
funny

anyway, im sick of 100F Heat indices.
It just wont let up in GA


The heat across the EAST and SE US may break next week as a trough settles in and this maybe a semi permant feature for several weeks once it build in this time next week.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
the JMA has a lot of moisture coming into the view from the east headed toward the islands..144 hours

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14629
Thank you Dr M. I sure am glad I know how to swim. May be treading water sooner than expected here in the Keys. One question I have for anyone with the knowledge. I remember in jr. high that a science teacher said if the Gulfstream shut down , it would turn the keys into a desert. Does anyone know if in fact this would happen? I guess time will tell, but I won't be around to see it, God willing.
Member Since: March 28, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1532
Don't call it a come back..I been here for years rocking my peers and putting suckers in fear..
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16444
Quoting StormTracker2K:
I feel refreshed everytime I go onto Doc's blog as this is the first thing I see in his advertisements. This puts all the bickering about GW into perspective about whats more important.






??
funny

anyway, im sick of 100F Heat indices.
It just wont let up in GA
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9721
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Believe me I heard about Convective Feedback issues during the whole duration of Debby and come to find out the GFS was by far the best performing model followed by the Nogaps.



Convection never was the issue with the forecast with Debby, it formed in a col region (or weak trough-like feature) between two mid/upper level ridges. It ended up that the western ridge was stronger, and the storm headed northeast instead of west.

Good catch by the GFS, but this was a large scale steering flow forecast which the lower resolution GFS can handle superbly at times. Formation of a small, few grid scale low is not necessarily its strength.

The GFS nails very large waves emerging from Africa well (i.e. Irene last year, Dean 2007)
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
98L making a comeback?


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Grasping at straws again. Shocker.

Oh ye of little patience.
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Quoting JeffMasters:


When I composed my post, just the 00Z GFS run was out, which showed nothing much at 144 hours. Since then, the 06Z is showing something may happen around August 1, but it's unclear whether this is actually a TD, since it looks pretty weak.

Jeff Masters


Ok Doc I didn't view the 0Z GFS so sorry about that. Again great post. I wonder if all of this melting in Greenland will raise the sea level over the coming weeks?
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
98L making a comeback?

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
69. JeffMasters (Admin)
Quoting StormTracker2K:


Maybe Doc doesn't look at computer models because this is plan as day here on the GFS.



When I composed my post, just the 00Z GFS run was out, which showed nothing much at 144 hours. Since then, the 06Z is showing something may happen around August 1, but it's unclear whether this is actually a TD, since it looks pretty weak.

Jeff Masters
Quoting OldLeatherneck:
Arctic Ocean SST Anomalies -7/25/2012



Thank you Dr. Master for your comprehensive report on what has occurred in Greenland in this past month. Truly a very dramatic series of events that will have a lasting impact on the rapidly changing environmental conditions across the arctic region. If Greenland keeps shedding ice at these rates, all of the predictive models for sea-level rise will need to be adjusted upward.

The above chart clearly shows why the elevated SSTs in the Arctic Ocean are contributing to the dramatic events on Greenland.

Is this a harbinger of things to come? Most Probably.

Is the earth warming? YES


I agree with you OldLeatherNeck,
I appreciate the good Doc's ability to hang his opinions on factual info..

Here's an adjustable flood map for the sea level rise you mentioned above
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6777
Quoting osuwxguynew:
Personally, I'm always skeptical of the GFS when it develops tiny lows from a very small area of convection, especially when that area is later in the forecast period and hasn't even formed yet. The model still has issues with convective feedback, even after the update.

Not saying it couldn't happen, but the Atlantic thus far has been brutally stable, and the SSTs/oceanic heat content are still below normal in that area.



Believe me I heard about Convective Feedback issues during the whole duration of Debby and come to find out the GFS was by far the best performing model followed by the Nogaps.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting Waltanater:
That has more ice in it than Greenland does! Better drink it up before that melts too! LOL.



If you want a delicious drink then that is it. Even though it is strong it goes down nice and smooth.

Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Personally, I'm always skeptical of the GFS when it develops tiny lows from a very small area of convection, especially when that area is later in the forecast period and hasn't even formed yet. The model still has issues with convective feedback, even after the update.

Not saying it couldn't happen, but the Atlantic thus far has been brutally stable, and the SSTs/oceanic heat content are still below normal in that area.

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Quoting washingtonian115:
Gro I read your blog..I just don't comment :).Sorta like a lurker.


I was going with the GFS the whole time but got Black Listed by Levi's crew. LOL
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting StormTracker2K:
For the sake of this blog I may need a MAI TAI to drink at the reception.


40ml white rum
20ml dark rum
15ml orange curaçao
15ml Orgeat syrup
10ml fresh lime
That has more ice in it than Greenland does! Better drink it up before that melts too! LOL.
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Greenland ice sheet surface mass balance (GrIS SMB) anomalies in Gt/yr simulated by MAR (Modèle Atmosphérique Régional) relative to 1971-2000.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
Arctic sea ice is now declining at only a normal climatological rate, but it still remains at record low levels:

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Quoting Grothar:
I don't know why everyone was confused with Debby. If you look at my blog on June 20, I told everyone where it was going, but of course only a few of my "loyal" bloggers even read it. :)

For those of you who missed it, here is the link. I know you all ingore me because I am old.

Link
Gro I read your blog..I just don't comment :).Sorta like a lurker.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16444
Quoting Neapolitan:
Using a little more tact and respect might help your case. "Are you in denial???" and "Come on now, I know ur smarter then this" aren't exactly the way I would talk to a man who holds multiple degrees in meteorology, has a few dozen years of experience more than I do, has built a globally-recognized weather brand, and is held in high esteem around the world--especially if I was addressing him in the forum attached to his own blog on the website he created.

Know what I mean?
Perfect irony.
:)

(T-50)
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For the sake of this blog I may need a MAI TAI to drink at the reception.


40ml white rum
20ml dark rum
15ml orange curaçao
15ml Orgeat syrup
10ml fresh lime
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting WeatherMikeToledo:
Dr. Masters wonderful scientific analyses (like this one Greenland) is one of things I fear the Net will lose eventually once TWC takes over TWU. TWC is all about marketing and glitz - not science, and, not, necessarily therefore, about telling the truth about climate and weather. I know his blog will stay for a while after the transition . . . until the honchos at TWC see that the hoi poloi aren’t interested in ‘long-haired’ meteorological analyses that make them think and learn. At that time they’ll just ‘retire’ it. I know it’s all a done deal and there’s no going back, but I can’t helping and thinking and feeling what I do about it.


someone could start a new website if it turns out that way...
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2337
Quoting StormTracker2K:


I think people were put off by the wording "are you in denial" other than that I agree with you Reed.

He did have ":P" at the end of what he said which means it was said "in light."
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I don't know why everyone was confused with Debby. If you look at my blog on June 20, I told everyone where it was going, but of course only a few of my "loyal" bloggers even read it. :)

For those of you who missed it, here is the link. I know you all ingore me because I am old.

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Arctic Ocean SST Anomalies -7/25/2012



Thank you Dr. Master for your comprehensive report on what has occurred in Greenland in this past month. Truly a very dramatic series of events that will have a lasting impact on the rapidly changing environmental conditions across the arctic region. If Greenland keeps shedding ice at these rates, all of the predictive models for sea-level rise will need to be adjusted upward.

The above chart clearly shows why the elevated SSTs in the Arctic Ocean are contributing to the dramatic events on Greenland.

Is this a harbinger of things to come? Most Probably.

Is the earth warming? YES
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Monthly unsmoothed values of the total mass (in Gigatons, Gt), of the Greenland ice sheet from GRACE. On the horizontal axis, each year begins on 1 January. Each small + symbol is a monthly value.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
Quoting ncstorm:


I think they already eloped..the reception will be held at WU..Its B.Y.O.O. though..(bring your own opinion)..oh and a 2012 year koolaid wine will be served at the reception..


I'll bring the RUM.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting reedzone:
OMG people have some humor here... I respect the Doc, was just having a little fun, sheesh. Lighten up!


I think people were put off by the wording "are you in denial" other than that I agree with you Reed.

Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
For facts, I read Jeff's entry...

For a wide variety of personal opinions, I read the comments...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Dr. Masters wonderful scientific analyses (like this one Greenland) is one of things I fear the Net will lose eventually once TWC takes over TWU. TWC is all about marketing and glitz - not science, and, not, necessarily therefore, about telling the truth about climate and weather. I know his blog will stay for a while after the transition . . . until the honchos at TWC see that the hoi poloi aren’t interested in ‘long-haired’ meteorological analyses that make them think and learn. At that time they’ll just ‘retire’ it. I know it’s all a done deal and there’s no going back, but I can’t helping and thinking and feeling what I do about it.
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One thing to look for these Cape Verde invests is the consistencies in the GFS/EURO models - currently we don't really have any - but models can be wrong!
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Quoting VR46L:
Thought Today was the big day !!! It doesn't like like it is , wonder when the "wedding" is?

BTW DR another so interesting blog ...Thanks


I think they already eloped..the reception will be held at WU..Its B.Y.O.O. though..(bring your own opinion)..oh and a 2012 year koolaid wine will be served at the reception..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14629
Quoting BahaHurican:
Look at the DATE.



I did!
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
OMG people have some humor here... I respect the Doc, was just having a little fun, sheesh. Lighten up!
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Quoting washingtonian115:
What's that in the caribbean?.

That's the remnant of the wave that is currently south of the Cape Verde. GSF has the remnant doing it into the Caribbean and Euro has is north of PR.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53308
Quoting BahaHurican:
Look at the DATE.



GFS 06Z - July 31, 2012

Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Geeez....everyone go get a second cup of coffee...
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 2337
Greenland ice sheet albedo from MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) observations, 2000-2011.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
Quoting Bobbyweather:

In about a week is August 1. Seven days after July 25.
That's what I'm trying to get at.

Besides, the Doc is not afraid to be wrong. He has freely admitted that he has been surprised.... lol

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Why are people so mean so early in the morning?.I hope TWC leaves this blog alone.Really don't want no interference in this blog by them AT ALL..
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16444
As Wash115 said in the past blog and I concur,we need a longtracker from the CV area to be completly glued to computer and follow it.Those are the best to track during hurricane season.

Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14073
ne.gulf.blowup
Member Since: September 11, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 4370

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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.