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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Quoting indianrivguy:


I'm curious as to why that would interest you..what generated that question?

it interests "me" now.. :)


I was thinking about ocean evaporation, climate change, tropical storms. Just started wondering!
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Quoting Grothar:


2138, the year I am going to retire.


in the year 2525, if man is still alive...
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Well, I just cried through that whole movie.."The Impossible"..its a must see!! I see why they got the oscar nods..

12z CMC











Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16215
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Quoting Grothar:


2138, the year I am going to retire.
Why so soon?
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Quoting Levi32:
12z CMC total accumulated precipitation through 240 hours:

This is a welcomed sight to see.We're slipping back into a drought again.
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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
I like the graph Dr. Masters posted.  Here's a question:  What is the annual acceleration in the rate of the Greenland ice sheet melt?

To wit:  Suppose the Greenland Ice Sheet has 2,500,000 km3 of ice.  In the year 2013 it is melting at 200 km3 year.  The melt is accelerating at  20 km3 annually.  What year will the ice sheet disappear?





2138, the year I am going to retire.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27125
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
because TN really needs snow and we really need a freeze....new GFS


That coastal low helps funnel cold air down into the SE



Not buying it as the 12Z GGEM isn't showing temps that cool over the SE US.
Member Since: February 28, 2013 Posts: 8 Comments: 4438
12z CMC total accumulated precipitation through 240 hours:

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12Z CMC unleashes on the SE US. 5" to 15" of rain from FL to NC. Amazing if this happens.
Member Since: February 28, 2013 Posts: 8 Comments: 4438
WHAT?!?!




funny





this is hilarious.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9746
Quoting indianrivguy:


If they had applied that money to monitoring the Indian River lagoon, we would know everything we need to know about point source of all the pollution.

And it is "bad" sand, full of fines, which are moving south and impacting our worm rock reefs. I do not support beach re-nourishment.

I know when they dump the fresh water out of Taylor Creek and it goes out the Fort Pierce inlet we start to get the carpet algae that destroys the reefs ecosystem. Its a sad sight and when your going over North Hutchinson Island causeway what you should see is blue green water but instead you see dark brown water pushed up against the blue green water and thats just wrong.
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Big WOW to the 12Z GGEM (CMC).




Member Since: February 28, 2013 Posts: 8 Comments: 4438
Quoting ncstorm:
12z GFS through 240 hours..this map may change after I post it due to hosting issues..

Rain!!
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Some people are getting excited about the possibility of a a subtropical storm soaking Florida next week.   But it's outside the Hebert boxes!  And you know what I posted last  night about thinking outside the box!
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AHHAHAAAA this is hilarious

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9746
The GFS not really buying the Euro and CMC solution

144 hrs as tropical as it appears to get

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because TN really needs snow and we really need a freeze....new GFS


That coastal low helps funnel cold air down into the SE

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9746
I like the graph Dr. Masters posted.  Here's a question:  What is the annual acceleration in the rate of the Greenland ice sheet melt?

To wit:  Suppose the Greenland Ice Sheet has 2,500,000 km3 of ice.  In the year 2013 it is melting at 200 km3 year.  The melt is accelerating at  20 km3 annually.  What year will the ice sheet disappear?



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Quoting SouthernIllinois:
This is out to 192 Hours. This is much better defined. It's the frame after this that isn't as detailed in showing plots...



thanks!

looks like the midatlantic will get quite a bit of rain as well...
Just have to hope that freeze doesnt materialize under the low.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9746
Quoting blizzardof78:
random science question for the board: how much water is contained in the thinnest possible (one molecule thick) layer of water at the oceans' surface?

i.e. total surface area of the oceans x one molecule thick layer = what volume of water?



I'm curious as to why that would interest you..what generated that question?

it interests "me" now.. :)
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wraps itself up quite well





centered around a weak ohio valley low

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9746
quite the bowling ball

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9746
this ... would be...... a.... disaster...






this is all followed by more rain



and a gfs snow joke




gfs is crazy...and by 288hrs its still raining


Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9746
new run

even more rain




and more coming




the whole run probably shows 5 " for much of the SE by one week 6 days from now.
I can only show 96 hr chunks.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9746
random science question for the board: how much water is contained in the thinnest possible (one molecule thick) layer of water at the oceans' surface?

i.e. total surface area of the oceans x one molecule thick layer = what volume of water?

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Quoting JNCali:
Anyone else tempted to start a pool on this one ;) (I have made this resolutions countless times though not publicly over the last few years...)


:P
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12z GFS through 240 hours..this map may change after I post it due to hosting issues..

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16215
Rut-Roh



Gonna get hot soon. Saw on the News where they say it was the 4 driest winter in 135 years and the fire season may have 45% more fires (prediction).

Fire Danger
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hey guys does anyone think that this year we will break the 5 years Cat 5 Hurricane drought
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12712
Good Day All,
Thanks for the Post Doc,
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Quoting Tazmanian:



you all seen rain like that on maps be for so its nothing new


Aw Taz !

Its going to an area in drought, Its good news for drought !

Ok I was a little expressive in my comment Just happy for the Florida folk !

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Quoting Tazmanian:



you all seen rain like that on maps be for so its nothing new
Awww come on Taz... Honey Boo Boo says, "Y'all just need some Go Go Juice and you'll feel better!"
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Quoting seminolesfan:
Thanks for the new blog, Doc.

(FWIW-I will not be discussing any CLIMATE issues on the main blog. I have ruffled too many feathers on the topic and will, from this point further, stick to topics of weather and shorter-term impact.)

Anyone else tempted to start a pool on this one ;) (I have made this resolutions countless times though not publicly over the last few years...)
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Quoting VR46L:
NCEP 96HRS acc Precip WHOA a bit of a soaker!!




you all seen rain like that on maps be for so its nothing new
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Quoting ChillinInTheKeys:
I have made many contributions over the years to the Yellow Snow Project.

Jedkins posted this yesterday. I doubt that this trucks owner will be helping fund the Dark Snow Project.



Hey Chillin ...dont take this the wrong way ...why not balance things out a bit and post pictures of people doing the "right thing"? I would love to see some pictures of positive images instead of always seeing the negative
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Im watching the movie "The Impossible"..about the 2004 Indian Tsunami..very good so far..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16215
Quoting Neapolitan:
Is that freshwater allowed to be wasted because of agricultural interests (Big Sugar), or because of Land Development interests? Or is it just the typical cockamamie South Florida way of doing things?


It is to protect agriculture. Okeechobee lake is managed as a reservoir, not a lake, and the EAA, everglades agricultural area, needs to have dry, where once several feet of water stood. Every water decision from Orlando south defers to Agriculture. We get water restrictions, they get water. They hold Okeechobee Lake high so they don't have to use pumps, and when the wet season arrives, they "emergency" dump the water into two man made connections, the Caloosahatchee, and St. Lucie river. It took six years for the St. Lucie to recover from the last dumping event, and now we are still reeling from Isaac.
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Quoting indianrivguy:


South Florida Water Management District so mismanages our water that we send some 1.7 billion gallons a day to tide. If that was held in the Everglades Agricultural Area, and in the Everglades, it would add a positive head to the Biscayne Aquifer, and provide us a lot more time to deal with rising seas before it contaminates all the available potable water in south Florida.


I drove through the Everglades this past weekend and was looking exactly at that issue with the shiny new pumping stations out there as part of the restoration efforts. Let's hope that they keep the wetland restoration alive in the coming decades to offset the intrusion issues in the coming decades.
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NCEP 96HRS acc Precip WHOA a bit of a soaker!!

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38. JeffMasters (Admin)
Quoting DFWdad:
I like the project, sounds very interesting. Industrial soot is good for no one.

"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"

I did the math, because honestly the number sounded like a lot, and I do not remember anyone saying our sea levels have risen already. In fact, I seem to remember, that with tides and such, it is a hard thing to determine.

That's .49 inches in 20 years, when you figure 20% of 3.1mm per year for 20 years.

"The vast ice sheet on the island holds enough water to raise global sea levels by twenty feet were it all to melt",

What exactly would it take for all of it to melt? Seriously, I want to know. How many years of no additional snow, and no winter temperatures?

I see these "what if's", and they seem to be boldly written to grab your attention. But I am a literal person, and I would like to know what it take for this seemingly worse-case scenario.



Good points, I added a sentence that many sea level rise experts predict a 1-meter rise by 2100. During the 20th century, global sea level rise was about 7 inches. Still, the exponential melt curve presented in Figure 3 is not comforting. If melt doubles every ten years for the rest of the century...well, you can do the math. I'm not saying melt will double every 10 years till 2100, but the one paper I cite says we are on pace to double by 2022 at the current exponential rate.

Jeff Masters
26. DFWdad 11:52 AM EDT on April 26, 2013

What exactly would it take for all of it to melt? Seriously, I want to know. How many years of no additional snow, and no winter temperatures?


That is what scientists are trying to figure out; using ice core samples and such from past eons to give them a general idea of what happened in the past, applying that information to computer modelling programs, and charting what has been happening in recent decades for comparisons.

Don't know that anyone knows the exact answer to your well taken question based on the various articles and research but it is headed in the same direction...... The salient issue for me anyway, in non-science terms, is whether the Earth, has reached the "tipping point" in terms of prolonged glacial melt regardless of any remedial measures that we can take at this point. Not much we can do, but watch it happen, if this is a natural earth cycle combined with aggravating man-made factors; but perhaps we can help slow it down a little bit by reducing some of the man made causes .
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Quoting fortpiercecane1:
Sand is being added back to the beaches in Martin and Saint Lucie counties here in Florida after last years season in which we took bad erosion. A decent sts could wash away a lot of time and tax payers money real fast.


If they had applied that money to monitoring the Indian River lagoon, we would know everything we need to know about point source of all the pollution.

And it is "bad" sand, full of fines, which are moving south and impacting our worm rock reefs. I do not support beach re-nourishment.
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Quoting indianrivguy:


South Florida Water Management District so mismanages our water that we send some 1.7 billion gallons a day to tide. If that was held in the Everglades Agricultural Area, and in the Everglades, it would add a positive head to the Biscayne Aquifer, and provide us a lot more time to deal with rising seas before it contaminates all the available potable water in south Florida.
Is that freshwater allowed to be wasted because of agricultural interests (Big Sugar), or because of Land Development interests? Or is it just the typical cockamamie South Florida way of doing things?
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Thank You Dr. for the great post and information. This reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. In the coming decades, if this trend continues for both the Greenland and Antarctica, as sea levels begin to rise in earnest, they will inadvertently become the Wicked Witches of the North and South to Man; "I'm melting, I'm melting".... ...Boggles the mind as to the potential effect of rising sea levels on coastal residents/development worldwide. In terms of Florida (and other similar coastal regions), salt water intrusion will have a huge impact on fresh water aquifer sources...........Time to also seriously think about funding desalinization plants in the coming decades if this comes to pass.


South Florida Water Management District so mismanages our water that we send some 1.7 billion gallons a day to tide. If that was held in the Everglades Agricultural Area, and in the Everglades, it would add a positive head to the Biscayne Aquifer, and provide us a lot more time to deal with rising seas before it contaminates all the available potable water in south Florida.
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Quoting FunnelVortex:
EURO Model of Potential Andrea Friday next week.



Looks like it WILL cross Florida, lets just hope the trend continues.


well whatever it does I hope it brings some rain to Cuba and more so us in Cayman we really darn need it
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12712
Quoting DFWdad:
I do not remember anyone saying our sea levels have risen already. In fact, I seem to remember, that with tides and such, it is a hard thing to determine...
Really? You apparently missed this:

sea

...and this:
sea

...and this:
sea

There are about a hundred more, but you get the picture now, I hope...
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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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