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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ne.gulf.blowup
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


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

Look at the DATE.

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Morning all. So the GFS is getting more consistent with the African wave next week. Signs of approaching the heart of the season.
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Quoting Tazmanian:



dr m dos this all the time he nevere looks at the mode ones i think he dos but he looks at the 1st few hrs like for the next 7 days and thats it
...a very confusing sentence there!
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Quoting reedzone:
NHC is giving a disturbance along a frontal boundary 425 miles south-southeast of Newfoundland (Invest 98L) a 20% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone, but this system is not a threat to any land areas. None of the reliable computer models are predicting tropical cyclone development through August 1.

Doc, are you in denial??? :P

GFS develops a system in a week or two, EURO shows a developing wave on the end of it's run, NOGAPS has a system by 144 hours... Come on now, I know ur smarter then this.

P.S. You can't tell me the GFS is not "reliable" after the victory it had with Debby.


Isn't it time for you to check in at Target Reed? Go do your analysis while you check out today's Blue Light Special!
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Thought Today was the big day !!! It doesn't look like it is , wonder when the "wedding" is?

BTW DR another so interesting blog ...Thanks
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54347
Thanks, Doc. I have friends who live in Greenland and they have been e-mailing as to what is going on. They are very concerned. I lived there for a short time many years ago. They have been getting flooding and Ice melts where they never saw them before.

Thought I would give everyone a wave.


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Quoting reedzone:
I'm not trying to bash on the doc, just trying to get the facts straight.
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?
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13551
I remember when in the early 80,s when a few scientists braved the media and others saying that Earth is undergoing a warming trend. There was substantial evidence that Greenland was melting then. ...Upper air temperatures (J. E. Box)

Seasonally-averaged 2011 upper air temperature data available from twice-daily radiosonde observations (Durre et al. 2006) in the vicinity of Greenland (see Table HTC4 for site locations) indicate anomalous tropospheric warmth in summer and winter and mid-tropospheric cold anomalies in spring (Fig. HTC8). The typical asymmetry between the tropospheric and stratospheric anomalies is most evident in winter, when record-setting cold anomalies were observed above 100 hPa. Mid-stratospheric atmospheric mass is low and prone to extremes. The overall warm pattern near the surface at 1000 hPa is consistent with a warming trend prevailing since reliable records began in 1964 and which has been most pronounced since the mid-1980s (Box and Cohen 2006).
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21414
yesterday's blog
Recent runs of both the GFS and NOGAPS models have predicted that tropical waves coming off the coast of Africa late this week and early next week could show some development.

today's blog
None of the reliable computer models are predicting tropical cyclone development through August 1.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15666
Quoting reedzone:


GFS develops the storm on the 28th.. I do understand what he was trying to point out.

There's always a chance Dr. Masters could be wrong. He's a person, he can make tiny mistakes. At least I think so.

If something forms on the 28th, that would be the first storm of July 2012.

And I just noticed that it's been nearly a month since Debby dissipated... what a slow season! (LOL; yeah, it's near or above average, but..)
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Quoting capeflorida:

And no one knows about EPIC Failure forecasts more than you do Jeff!


Haha, you wanna see epic failures? Here's a forecast I made 3 years ago..

Tropical Storm Colin

Photobucket
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faster and faster doc

greenland will warm again
still 2 months of summer remain
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54347
Quoting Bobbyweather:

In about a week is August 1. Seven days after July 25.


GFS develops the storm on the 28th.. I do understand what he was trying to point out.
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Quoting reedzone:
GFS 06Z - July 31, 2012


What's that in the caribbean?.
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Quoting reedzone:
I'm not trying to bash on the doc, just trying to get the facts straight. Models develop a system near Africa in about a week.

In about a week is August 1. Seven days after July 25.
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I'm not trying to bash on the doc, just trying to get the facts straight. Models develop a system near Africa in about a week.
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Yeah many on here succumbed to the Euro's failure with Debby. Funny Debby was moving toward FL the whole time. I remember watching Tornadoes come ashore near Tampa as Debby was nearing the coast and people on here including Doc saying Debby was going to TX. An epic failure for many on here and at the NHC with Debby. I guess it's a good this she wasn't a mahor hurricane coming ashore in FL at the time as many would have been unprepared.

And no one knows about EPIC Failure forecasts more than you do Jeff9641!
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Link
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TS by 162HR!!
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Quoting reedzone:
GFS 06Z - July 31, 2012




Thanks Reed I was just about to post that.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Thanks Dr. Masters
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6840
Quoting reedzone:
NHC is giving a disturbance along a frontal boundary 425 miles south-southeast of Newfoundland (Invest 98L) a 20% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone, but this system is not a threat to any land areas. None of the reliable computer models are predicting tropical cyclone development through August 1.

Doc, are you in denial??? :P

GFS develops a system in a week or two, EURO shows a developing wave on the end of it's run, NOGAPS has a system by 144 hours... Come on now, I know ur smarter then this.

P.S. You can't tell me the GFS is not "reliable" after the victory it had with Debby.


Yeah many on here succumbed to the Euro's failure with Debby. Funny Debby was moving toward FL the whole time. I remember watching tornadoes coming ashore near Tampa as Debby was nearing the coast and people on here including Doc saying Debby was going to TX. An epic failure for many on here and at the NHC with Debby. I guess it's a good thing she wasn't a major hurricane coming ashore in FL at the time as many would have been unprepared.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting reedzone:
NHC is giving a disturbance along a frontal boundary 425 miles south-southeast of Newfoundland (Invest 98L) a 20% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone, but this system is not a threat to any land areas. None of the reliable computer models are predicting tropical cyclone development through August 1.

Doc, are you in denial??? :P

GFS develops a system in a week or two, EURO shows a developing wave on the end of it's run, NOGAPS has a system by 144 hours... Come on now, I know ur smarter then this.
Morning reed.... I think the doc squeaks out on the 144 hours, which is the end of July... lol.

Note he doesn't go past 1 Aug.

I'm still holding out for one more named storm over the weekend. There is still potential out there, though there is also still plenty of dust and shear in the CAR to keep that potential to a minimum.

Also, anybody else think that area of low pressure still over Africa is going so fast that it's going to run into the low pressure area that just came off?

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GFS 06Z - July 31, 2012


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Quoting reedzone:
NHC is giving a disturbance along a frontal boundary 425 miles south-southeast of Newfoundland (Invest 98L) a 20% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone, but this system is not a threat to any land areas. None of the reliable computer models are predicting tropical cyclone development through August 1.

Doc, are you in denial??? :P

GFS develops a system in a week or two, EURO shows a developing wave on the end of it's run, NOGAPS has a system by 144 hours... Come on now, I know ur smarter then this.

P.S. You can't tell me the GFS is not "reliable" after the victory it had with Debby.



dr m dos this all the time he nevere looks at the mode ones i think he dos but he looks at the 1st few hrs like for the next 7 days and thats it
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting reedzone:
NHC is giving a disturbance along a frontal boundary 425 miles south-southeast of Newfoundland (Invest 98L) a 20% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone, but this system is not a threat to any land areas. None of the reliable computer models are predicting tropical cyclone development through August 1.

Doc, are you in denial??? :P

GFS develops a system in a week or two, EURO shows a developing wave on the end of it's run, NOGAPS has a system by 144 hours... Come on now, I know ur smarter then this.


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

Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Does the ice core analysis support a regular 150 year cycle in surface melt events? I sort of doubt it. That comment about regularity sounds like an extrapolation from two datapoints to me, but I'd like to know more.
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WOW! Very impressive Doc!
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Anyone think the 30% chance outlook for day 2 will expand to cover the rest of Pennsylvania?? I am right outside of the 30% chance thing as it is
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Thanks for the great Post, Dr, Masters!
I can feel the effects of climate change once again.

Anyways, doesn't 98L look good? lol
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Thanks Doc..No mention of TWC cross over?.
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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.

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