Dark Snow Project: Crowd-Source Funded Science for Greenland

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:03 PM GMT on April 26, 2013

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"There's no place on Earth that is changing faster--and no place where that change matters more--than Greenland." So said 350.org founder Bill McKibben, in a 2012 Rolling Stone magazine interview. As Earth Week 2013 draws to a close, I want to draw your attention to a unique effort to learn more about why Greenland is melting so fast--a crowd-funded research project that anyone can contribute to, which aims to answer the "burning question": How much does wildfire and industrial soot darken the ice, increasing melt? The Dark Snow Project, the first-ever Greenland expedition relying on crowd-source funding, hopes to raise $150,000 to mount a field research campaign to find out. The project is the brainchild of Dr. Jason Box, Professor at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), and one of the world's leading experts on Greenland's glaciers. He has set up a website called darksnowproject.org to help raise the funds for the field campaign, and has raised about half of the needed amount as of mid-April.


Figure 1. Over the course of several years, turbulent water overflow from a large melt lake carved this 60-foot-deep (18.3 meter-deep) canyon in Greenland's Ice Sheet (note people near left edge for scale). Image credit: Ian Joughin, University of Washington.

2012: Unprecedented melting in Greenland
Watching the weather events of 2012 over Greenland made all seasoned climate watchers a little queasy. The vast ice sheet on the island holds enough water to raise global sea levels by 7.36 meters (24.15 feet) were it all to melt, and the ice melt season of 2012 gave notice that an epic melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet may be underway. According to NOAA's 2012 Arctic Report Card, the duration of melting at the surface of the ice sheet in summer 2012 was the longest since satellite observations began in 1979, and the total amount of summer melting was nearly double the previous record, set in 2010 (satellite records of melting go back to 1979.) A rare, near-ice sheet-wide surface melt event melted 97% of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet on July 11 - 12. While a similar melt event at the summit occurred 1889, but the 1889 event has no basis in the instrumental record from coastal Greenland. It's instead likely that 2012 was Greenland's warmest summer in at least 863 years, since the medieval warm period (see http://www.meltfactor.org/blog/?p=677 and http://www.meltfactor.org/blog/?p=725). The incredibly warm temperatures have been blamed on highly unusual atmospheric circulation and jet stream changes, which were also responsible for 2012's unusually wet summer weather in England. It would not be a surprise if this sort of summer began occurring more often, since temperatures on top of the Greenland Ice Sheet have been rising six times faster than the global average during the past twenty years. A May 2013 Geophysical Research Letters paper by McGrath et al., "Recent warming at Summit, Greenland: Global context and implications", concluded that by 2025, there is a 50% chance of ice sheet-wide melt events happening annually. The ice sheet reached its darkest value on record in 2012. The darkened surface was due to below average summer snow, soot particles from pollution and forest fires, and record melting. A darker ice sheet absorbs more solar energy, in a vicious cycle that raises temperatures, melts more ice, and further darkens the ice sheet. The amount of melting that was caused by soot from forest fires is important to know, since global warming is likely to increase the amount of forest fires in coming decades. However, the amount of forest fire soot landing on the Greenland Ice Sheet is almost completely unknown, which is why Dr. Box is determined to find out, via the Dark Snow Project.


Figure 2. Smoke from a fire in Labrador, Canada wafts over the Greenland ice sheet on June 17, 2012, as seen in this cross-section view of aerosol particles taken by NASA's CALIPSO satellite. Image credit: Dr. Jason Box, Ohio State University.

Greenland causing 25% of global sea level rise
In a landmark study published in November 2012 in Science, 47 researchers from 26 laboratories reported that the amount of ice being lost from Greenland and Antarctica has tripled since the 1990s, with Greenland contributing more than twice as much to global sea level rise than Antarctica. The study, "A Reconciled Estimate of Ice-Sheet Mass Balance", found that the two ice sheets were responsible for 20% of the global sea level rise of 3.1 mm/year during the 20-year period 1992 - 2011. The remainder of the rise was due to expansion of the water due to heating of the oceans, melting of mountain glaciers, and unsustainable pumping of ground water. Said co-author Erik Ivins of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, "The pace of ice loss from Greenland is extraordinary, with nearly a five-fold increase since the mid-1990s." As of 2011, Greenland's contribution to global sea level rise on its own had risen to 20 - 25%, according to an international research group led by the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, in an article published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters on 1 June 2012. If the current exponential ice loss trends continue for the next ten years, Greenland's contribution to sea level rise will double to 1.4 mm/yr by 2022, the researchers said. Many sea level rise researchers expect global sea level to rise by about 1 meter (3.3 feet) by 2100. During the 20th century, global sea level rise was about 0.18 meters (7 inches.)


Figure 3. Monthly smoothed (purple) and unsmoothed (blue) values of the total mass lost from the Greenland Ice Sheet (in Gigatons, Gt) from measurements by the GRACE satellites between March 2002-September 2012. An approximate equivalent global sea level rise figure is on the right axis. Note that the decline in ice mass lost from Greenland is not a straight line--it is exponential, meaning that more ice loss is lost each year than in the previous year. Image credit: 2012 Arctic Report Card.

Will Antarctica be more important than Greenland for sea level rise?
Although melting from Greenland is currently raising global sea level by about a factor of two more than Antarctica melting is, that situation may change later this century. A 2013 study by Dahl-Jensen et al. looked at a new ice core drilled from the bottom-most depths of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The core suggests that the ice in Greenland may have partially survived the warm Eemian period before the Ice Age, approximately 118,000 - 126,000 years ago, when Greenland temperatures were 5- 8°C warmer than present-day temperatures. Global sea level during the Eemian was 4 - 8 meters (13 - 26 ft) higher than the present sea level, and the scientists estimated that melting from Greenland was responsible for 2 meters (6.6 ft) of this sea level rise. This implies that Antarctica was responsible for 50 - 75% of global sea level rise during the Eemian, and thus we might expect Antarctica to take over as the dominant source of sea level rise later this century, when global temperatures may to rise to levels similar to those experienced during the Eemian.

Related posts
Greenland experiences melting over 97% of its area in mid-July (July 25, 2012)
Record warmth at the top of the Greenland Ice Sheet (July 18, 2012)
Unprecedented May heat in Greenland; update on 2011 Greenland ice melt (May, 2012)
Greenland update for 2010: record melting and a massive calving event

Dr. Jason Box's blog on Greenland and the Dark Snow Project is at http://www.meltfactor.org.

The http://www.greenlandmelting.com/ website looks like a great resource for following this year's melt progression in Greenland.


Video 1. Glaciologist Dr. Jason Box and 350.org founder Bill McKibben plug the Darksnow project in this January 2013 video by Peter Sinclair. There's some impressive footage of the record Greenland snow melt of summer 2012 sweeping away a 20-ton tractor that was attempting to repair a bridge washed out by the raging Watson River on July 11, 2012 in Kangerlussauaq, Greenland. The driver escaped unharmed.

Support the Dark Snow Project
One of Dr. Box's collaborators, photographer James Balog, who created the amazing time-lapse Greenland glacier footage in the fantastic 2012 "Chasing Ice" movie, puts it like this: "Working in Greenland these past years has left me with a profound feeling of being in the middle of a decisive historic moment--the kind of moment, at least in geologic terms, that marks the grand tidal changes of history." On that note, I encourage you all to support the Dark Snow Project. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Dark Snow Project Expedition Plan 2013
Prepare and gather science equipment including a field spectrometer, snow and ice coring device, and snow metrics kit.

Travel to Iqualuit, on Baffin Island, Nunavut from home locales in California, Ohio, Michigan, Vermont and rendezvous with Dash-6 "Twin Otter" ski-equipped airplane and flight crew.

Organize cold weather survival kit.

Ferry team from Iqualuit to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.

Fly to and land at sampling sites high on the inland ice sheet.

At each site collect snow samples from a snow pit and obtain snow cores to a minimum depth of the previous year's snow surface, and record snow properties.

Transport of team and snow samples to Greenland's capital Nuuk, where the team will rest after hustling at field sites.

Return to Iqualuit, then to respective home locales to start the data analysis and reporting phase of campaign.

Jeff Masters

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Southern Louisiana needs a map with a bigger scale.
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
img src="Extreme Rainfall thru 2012 photo ExtremeRainThru2012.jpg">

'nuff said....
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Ok so far got bday greets from family close friends you guys my buddy's from the USMC the USAF the Royal Marines Commandos The RAF sadly nothing from my buds in US Army, British Army oh yeah I got my Bday greet from the Governor
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 10931
this is why Doc and others are so concerned about ice melt..
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Wait...I'M IN THE FLOOD ZONE!?

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TWIT
WIRE
IRON
TENT
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Quoting BaltimoreBrian:


Get the Baltimore map please :)
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
Hei hvordan går det gamle en?


Det går bra (du tvit)
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Quoting Grothar:
Happy Birthday CK. I hope you have 200 more.



Hmm my fav cake how did you know thank Grothar
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 10931
Quoting LargoFl:


Get the Baltimore map please :)
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Happy Birthday CK. I hope you have 200 more.


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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


Congrats and have many more.


Thanks tropicsweatherpr
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 10931
Hei hvordan går det gamle en?
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Quoting wxgeek723:


We mentioned it earlier...


that's odd..Idk why the topic has not been mentioned since it was a historic event.
I remember Tuscaloosa very well...

Hopefully people have recovered, properties/structures restored and the nightmare of those who suffered well sealed with a bunch of heavy books on top of the "forgotten pain" box..

life goes on...
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wont take much to make my county an island again..i'd be ok..
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
Hey guys yay me today is my birthday and I hear of no tornados as of yet


Congrats and have many more.
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How would coastal cities fare with sea level rise?...Link
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Quoting aspectre:
535 Grothar: You DO pay attention. :)

When someone comes up with a good idea, the lazy* adopt it early. I've been half-expecting to see the NWS using 'splat' since you first coined the descriptive.

* If an idea isn't more efficient overall, doesn't allow less expenditure of effort over the long term, it ain't a good idea.


I would LFMAO if they did. Although, few of them did use the term "blob" last year.

I must admit, they did pick up my term "Anthropogenic Global Warming" fast. :)


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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36847
Hey guys yay me today is my birthday and I hear of no tornados as of yet
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 10931
535 Grothar: You DO pay attention. :)

When someone comes up with a good idea, the lazy* adopt it early. I've been half-expecting to see the NWS using 'splat' since you first coined the descriptive.

* If an idea isn't more efficient overall, doesn't allow less expenditure of time&effort over the long term, it ain't a good idea.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
this is the one for dust

pink regions being dust lighter not as bright low levels brighter pink higher levels of dust



Excellent..
Thanks for the response and explanation..
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6770
this is the one for dust

pink regions being dust lighter not as bright low levels brighter pink higher levels of dust

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Hackleburg is in a 2% tornado risk today.
That town was hit by an EF-5 tornado during the Super outbreak of April 27, 2011.

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Quoting pcola57:


One question Keep..
From that Image and future ones can we pick up on the SAL??
Asked another way..
When I look at that Image will I be able to detect the dust off African Continent??
that one is mainly a convective parameter
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12z GFS is looking to flood me with rain in the next week.
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Quoting etxwx:
6 months after Sandy, thousands homeless in NY, NJ
By WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press | April 27, 2013

Excerpt: Six months after Superstorm Sandy devastated the Jersey shore and New York City and pounded coastal areas of New England, the region is dealing with a slow and frustrating, yet often hopeful, recovery. Tens of thousands of people remain homeless. Housing, business, tourism and coastal protection all remain major issues with the summer vacation — and hurricane — seasons almost here again.

Complete article posted here.


Ortley Beach still looks like Sandy just hit.

Mind you, this picture was just taken on Thursday
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


Surely there is plenty of moisture inside Africa. It will be sooner rather than later when we have analized by NHC the first Tropical Wave.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Sure isn't a lot of discussion regarding the outbreak on this date two years ago considering it was the largest tornado outbreak in history.


We mentioned it earlier...
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE: Post# 546


One question Keep..
From that Image and future ones can we pick up on the SAL??
Asked another way..
When I look at that Image will I be able to detect the dust off African Continent??
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6770
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13: Post# 541
Sure isn't a lot of discussion regarding the outbreak on this date two years ago considering it was the largest tornado outbreak in history.


It's not even listed in WU's tornado video blog..
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6770
Well that night on the outbreak I wasn't near a T.V so I don't have a lot of memories of it.I do remember however receiving a lot of rain that night and the following morning was beautiful outside.I did see the news the next morning but as I said I don't have a lot of memory as to what happened.It was shadowed by May 22 2011..
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Quoting Grothar:


:) you're too young for that. Stay in shape.

I told her its my winter padding. I've lost 8kg(17lb) this week. Don't know how but I have.
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Sure isn't a lot of discussion regarding the outbreak on this date two years ago considering it was the largest tornado outbreak in history.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

My wife says that about me. LOL


:) you're too young for that. Stay in shape.
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Land splat over Kentucky and Tennesee.


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Quoting Grothar:


It is getting rounder by the hour. Looks like some bad weather for some.

My wife says that about me. LOL
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Quoting RTSPlayer:
If these statements are accurate, and the estimate of temperatures rising much faster in the arctic than on the global average, then by the time the global average goes up just by another 1C, the poles will be warmer by another 4C to 6C. This implies sea level rise of several meters by 2100.
Yes; that is a very real possibility, given known (and unknown) positive feedback effects. And that possibility has been well-discussed.
Quoting RTSPlayer:
...why don't the global temperature change estimates and models predict the temperature consistent with the "one meter or so" sea level rise that the standard prediction has been?
Some do. But the mainstream media--led as they are by moneyed interests, and blinded as they are by the impulsive need for "balance"--decry as "alarmist" any talk of such massive changes. As such, most scientists have been forced to downplay the majority of their findings; it's either that, or they will receive nothing but derision. (Just look at some of the responses in this very forum to some of the even more mild projections of which Dr. Masters writes.)
Quoting RTSPlayer:
Why doesn't anyone discuss all of these findings?
They are discussed. If you hang around internet forums populated not by fake skeptics but by actual climatologists, oceanographers, and Arctic scientists, you'll quickly see that it's a very huge topic of conversation. Perhaps the primary topic.

We humans don't like change; we don't like anything that upsets our carefully-constructed worldviews. It's far easier and more comforting to believe that things are now as they've always been and always will be; it's scary to consider that humanity's time on this planet makes up but a very tiny sliver of the earth's total history, for that in turn means we can be gone just as quickly as we arose. And major changes are indeed coming. If you think the massive droughts, intense floods, extreme storms, profound heat waves, deep cold snaps, nasty blizzards, and historic fires of the past couple of decades have been bad, just hang around for awhile...
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Quoting pcola57:



By golly it sure is..
I haven't looked at anything forcast-wise yet but it sure looks like it's found a "happy place"..Lol



From Water Vapor it looks like it has a straw and is sucking moisture up from the Western GOM..
And west Texas for that matter..




With this much moisture moving, I wouldn't be surprised if we get a cut-off Low in the GOM somewhere..
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Quoting aspectre:
LargoFl: WOW..check out that blob in the gulf near Florida!!!
428 icmoore: Been a while since I heard the B word...

That's cuz it's still a splat on the GroCon scale


You DO pay attention. :)
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:



moving nw away from azores



good thing.... I didn't know which way it was moving
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424 LargoFl: WOW..check out that blob in the gulf near Florida!!!
428 icmoore: Been a while since I heard the B word...

That's cuz it's still a splat on the GroCon index.
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Quoting Grothar: Post# 528


It is getting rounder by the hour. Looks like some bad weather for some.


By golly it sure is..
I haven't looked at anything forcast-wise yet but it sure looks like it's found a "happy place"..Lol



From Water Vapor it looks like it has a straw and is sucking moisture up from the Western GOM..
And west Texas for that matter..

Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6770

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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.