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Next century's most important place in the world--Greenland?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:58 PM GMT on December 21, 2007

If one had to pick the region of the world most likely to influence the course of human history this century, the Middle East would be the obvious choice, due to its political volatility and rich oil resources. However, the Middle East may have a significant challenger next century from a seemingly unlikely place--Greenland. Why Greenland? Well, the Greenland ice sheet holds enough water to raise global sea level 7 meters (23 feet). There are worrisome signs that the ice sheet might be more vulnerable than we thought to significant melting near the end of the century, according to research results presented at last week's annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco. The meeting is the world's largest annual gathering of climate change scientists.

For climate change scientists, Greenland is clearly the most important place in the world. You could tell this by the way glaciers with unpronounceable names like "Kangerdlugssuaq" rolled off their tongues in a smooth, practiced manner at talks given at the AGU meeting. At least 120 presentations focused on the Arctic or Greenland, and fully 52 of these concerned Greenland. I attended roughly 20 of these talks, and most of the presenters made it clear that they were quite concerned about the future of Arctic sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet, particularly in light of the astounding Arctic sea ice melt that occurred in 2007. A number of these talks raised the possibility that we've reached a tipping point in the Arctic. A complete loss of summertime sea ice may occur between 2013 and 2040, three of the presenters said, with the resulting warming dooming the Greenland ice sheet to a slow but inevitable melting process over a period of centuries. None of the presenters expressed the view that the current melting of the Greenland ice sheet and Arctic sea ice was due to a natural cycle that would completely halt or reverse in the next few years or decades.

At a talk on "The Recent Arctic Warm Period", Dr. Jim Overland, an Arctic expert with NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, didn't offer his view on whether a tipping point had been reached. Instead, he asked the audience to vote. The options he presented:

* A The melt back of Arctic sea ice observed in 2007 is permanent and will not lessen.
* B Ice coverage will partially recover but continue to decrease.
* C The ice would recover to 1980s levels but then continue to decline over the coming century.

Both Options A and B had audience support, but only one brave soul voted for the most conservative option C.

Figure 1. A research submarine breaks through the Arctic ice. Image credit: Bernard Coakley.

The latest news from Greenland
I was amazed see the tremendous breadth and intensity of research efforts focused on Greenland and the Arctic, presented at AGU. Extra funding has been given to research efforts as part of the International Polar Year (IPY) program, scheduled to run March 2007 through 2009. Satellites like Icesat and GRACE measure the extent of Greenland's ice from above, aided by a fleet of small and large research aircraft. Scientists now have unmanned aircraft that can use runways or be launched by slingshot that can measure the extent of Greenland's melt water lakes. The air armada will be joined next year by the Total Pole Airship, the first blimp used for Arctic studies. Manned and unmanned submarines measure the thickness of the sea ice surrounding the island, and both permanent and temporary bases dotted across Greenland and the polar sea ice house scientists doing land-based studies. Ships and buoys also add data from the ocean areas.

A short list of the results presented at AGU all point to an ice sheet in peril:

- Melting of snow above 2000 meters elevation on Greenland reached a new record in 2007 (Tedesco, 2007).

- Leigh Stearns of the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute showed that the contribution of Greenland melting to global sea level rise has doubled in the last five years. According to the 2007 IPCC report (see Figure 4.18), Greenland may account for as much as 10% of the total global annual sea rise of about 3-4 mm/year (approximately 1.5 inches per decade).

- Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) have warmed over 5° C (9° F) over the waters west of Greenland since 1990 (Figure 1, to the right). This has caused the ice-free season to increase by over 60 days per year along the coast.

- The Greenland ice sheet has experienced conditions as warm as those today in the past. Lowell et al. (2007) found organic remains in eastern Greenland that had just been exposed by melting ice, and dated these remains at between A.D. 800 to 1014. Thus, this portion of Greenland was ice-free about 1000 years ago, and temperatures were presumably similar to today's. Erik the Red took advantage of this warm period to establish the first Norse settlements in Greenland around 950 A.D. However, the climate cooled after 1200 A.D., and the Norse settlements disappeared by 1550.

For more information, see our new Greenland feature on our expanding climate change page.

Jeff Masters

Lowell, T.V., et al., 2007, Organic Remains from the Istorvet Ice Cap, Liverpool Land, East Greenland: A Record of Late Holocene Climate Change,, Eos Trans. AGU, 88(52), Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract C13A-04.

Stearns, L.A., and G.S. Hamilton, 2007, New States of Behavior: Current Status of Outlet Glaciers in Southeast Greenland and the Potential for Similar Changes Elsewhere, Eos Trans. AGU, 88(52), Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract C13A-06.

Tedesco, M., "A New Record in 2007 for Melting in Greenland," EOS, 88:39, 2007, 383.

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Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

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794. Weather456
1:00 PM AST on December 26, 2007
Ocean City Beach, Maryland

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
793. Weather456
12:43 PM AST on December 26, 2007
Pier Cam at Nags Head, North Carolina

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
792. Weather456
12:31 PM AST on December 26, 2007
The center of the storm just passed station CLKN7

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
791. Weather456
12:22 PM AST on December 26, 2007
Curved bands continue to become more define with 98S

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
790. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
3:46 PM GMT on December 26, 2007
Wiki South Pacific Active Systems

Tropical Disturbance 06F mentioned by RMSC Nadi
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789. Weather456
9:45 AM AST on December 26, 2007
Tropical Invest 98S

1230 UTC DEC 26 2007

Pattern Type: Curve band about 0.30 arc with a small area of intense convection.

Current Intensity: CI 1.5

Adjustments: None

Final Estimate: CI 1.5

Dvroak Trends:
0000 UTC DEC 25 2007 - CI 1.5
1230 UTC DEC 26 2007 - Ci 1.5

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
788. NEwxguy
1:47 PM GMT on December 26, 2007
GM to all,hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas thats if anyone is here.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 896 Comments: 16202
787. Weather456
9:22 AM AST on December 26, 2007
Whats left of the so called "Pab-Low" in the Eastern Subtropical Atlantic

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
786. Geojunkie
12:59 PM GMT on December 26, 2007
Merry Christmas Dr M -

Thanks so much for the summary of the AGU talks. Really interesting stuff, merits continued investigation.

Quick question:
why would you characterize the scientist who voted for option 'C' - as a 'brave soul'? He/she doesn't even disagree with the thesis that ice decline is occurring, only rate.

Is the 'group think' at AGU that bad? Seems as if a little bit of an environment of intimidation exists here (after all, one has to be 'brave' to express an informed opinion).

This doesn't reflect well upon AGU - an organization 'that advances, through unselfish cooperation in research, the understanding of Earth and space for the benefit of humanity.'

Hardly the free, open environment we need for scientific inquiry of these serious issues! LOL!
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785. BahaHurican
7:51 AM EST on December 26, 2007
Morning 456. I didn't expect for it to be raining this morning, though. It's pouring here, like a summer rain shower.

Plus the temps have cooled slightly.

At least the Junkanoo is just about over . . .
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784. Weather456
6:51 AM AST on December 26, 2007
Radar Image

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
783. Weather456
6:43 AM AST on December 26, 2007
Our East Coast low has develop as expected.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
782. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
6:14 AM GMT on December 26, 2007
Australia remains on alert this week into the weekend

Bureau of Meteorology - Perth

Tropical Cyclone Outlook (26December)
(1) Central South Indian Ocean

There are no significant tropical lows currently in the region. An active monsoon trough lies near 11S. A low is expected to form along the trough between 90E and 105E by Thursday and develop as it moves to the west. There is an inceasing chance of cyclone formation in the week.

Thursday: LOW
Friday: HIGH
Saturday: HIGH

Model Link

(2) Southeast Indian Ocean

Gale Warning in effect

At 12:00am UTC, a monsoon trough was located near 10S and was reported as nearly stationary.

Area Affected
Within 500 nautical miles north of the monsoon trough between 90E and 120E.

West northwest winds of 25 knots with gusts up to 35 knots. rough seas low to moderate swells. Squally showers and thunderstorms.

Tropical Cyclone Outlook
An active monsoon trough lies near 10S. There are indications a low will form between 115-120E and develop as it slowly moves to the south from Thursday onward.

Thursday: Low
Friday: High
Saturday: High

Model Link


Bureau of Meteorology - Northern Territory

Tropical Cyclone Outlook (26December)
The weather currently affecting the Top End is due to an active monsoonal flow

However, no tropical cyclone development is expected near the Northern Territory during this period.


Brisbane Bureau of Meteorology - Queensland

Tropical Cyclone Outlook (26December)
At the present time there are no tropical disturbances in the Coral Sea.

A low pressure system is expected to develop over the western Coral Sea within 180 nautical miles of 20S 153E during Thursday and then further intensify into Friday as it moves southeast.

Thursday: low
Friday: Moderate
Saturday: High

Model LINK
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780. extreme236
12:11 AM GMT on December 26, 2007
Merry Christmas hydrus
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779. hydrus
11:33 PM GMT on December 25, 2007
Thank you Extreme 236-merry christmas.
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778. JLPR
6:34 PM AST on December 25, 2007
hey guys got some new wunderphotos
JLPR's Wunderphotos
check them out and rate them
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777. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
9:14 PM GMT on December 25, 2007

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776. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
9:13 PM GMT on December 25, 2007
Joint Typhoon Warning Center

Tropical Disturbance Summary for North Territory
Issued at 18:00 UTC (25Dec)
An area of convection (90P) located near 11.9S 129.5E or 65 NM northwest of Darwin, Australia. Animated infrared satellite imagery indicates a weak low level circulation center with poorly organized deep convection flaring near the center. The Darwin radar clearly shows convection rotating around the defined circulation just west of Bathurst Island. Surface observation near the low level circulation center indicates surface low pressure near 1005-1006 mb. The SSMIS and recent AMSU images depict consolidating but weak deep convection. Upper level analysis indicates a developing anticyclone over the low level circulation center with fair outflow aloft enhanced by troughing to the south.

Maximum sustained winds near the center is 15-20 knots with a minimum sea level pressure of 1005mb. Based on the lack of significant covective banding as well as the position near land, the potential of this disturbance to form into a significant tropical cyclone within the next 24 hours is POOR.
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775. JLPR
4:26 PM AST on December 25, 2007
hello? echoes lol
does someone know how to add a wunderphoto to my blog?
thanks to anyone that answer
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774. seflagamma
2:56 PM EST on December 25, 2007
Dr Masters and Staff,

Hope you are all having a wonderful and Merry Christmas! Thank you for all your work in keeping this website going for us all year; I thank you very much!!!

Gamma and family,

Christmas Glitter Graphics

glitter graphics

Christmas Glitter Graphics

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!
Gams & Poppy

And to all my friends who post here!

ditto! LOL

Merry Christmas!!!!
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 309 Comments: 41109
773. lindenii
7:33 PM GMT on December 25, 2007
752. Weather456 11:46 AM GMT on December 25, 2007

Good Christmas Day to all!

Looks like your updates got to Santa.

Good job!!
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771. sporteguy03
6:22 PM GMT on December 25, 2007
Thank you for the amazing blogging present and my family loves the weather books and 456's posts thank you for the joy of weather.
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770. Weather456
1:58 PM AST on December 25, 2007

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
769. extreme236
5:44 PM GMT on December 25, 2007
In the Australian area incase that wasnt clear
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768. extreme236
5:27 PM GMT on December 25, 2007
Well it moved inland over the Northern Territory if I am correct. Its max 10min winds were 155mph and max 1min winds were 180mph...pressure was reported to be 905mbar
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767. hydrus
4:59 PM GMT on December 25, 2007
Is it possible to give the location,windspeed and pressure on that one?
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766. extreme236
4:54 PM GMT on December 25, 2007
The strongest cyclone ever observed in the Southern Hemisphere is Tropical Cyclone Monica
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765. hydrus
4:44 PM GMT on December 25, 2007
Extreme 236 what was the most powerful tropical cyclone in the southern hemisphere?
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764. extreme236
4:41 PM GMT on December 25, 2007
Invest-a-palooza in the southern hemisphere...guess the BOM was right about the monsoon trough spawning a bunch of possible things
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763. hydrus
3:42 PM GMT on December 25, 2007
A happy and safe christmas to all.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
762. Weather456
11:43 AM AST on December 25, 2007

The ITCZ is centered along 0/50W 3N/40W 3N/30W. Showers mainly found between 40W and 30W where mid-latitude flow continues interact with the ITCZ. A deep upper trough north of the area is enhancing additional showers across the area north of 10N from 40W to the Canary Islands. The surface Azores high is analyzed 1032 mb near 40N/30W. This high is producing a large area of moderate trades and mainly fair weather outside the shower activity.

by W456
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
761. Weather456
11:28 AM AST on December 25, 2007

Increase periods cloudiness and maybe showers possible over the Northwestern Caribbean and Northern Central America as the area continues to be invaded by patches of shallow moisture advected within the northeast wind flow. Thunderstorms continue to plague Southern Central America and parts of Northern South America. This activity is being caused by the ITCZ enhanced by increase inflow. Upper winds continue to drive a jet of cirriform moisture into the Caribbean Sea south of 15N...passing over the Windward Isles and into the Tropical Atlantic. Fair weather dominates elsewhere.

by W456
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
760. charlesimages
10:29 AM EST on December 25, 2007
Merry Christmas Dr. Masters!!!!!!

White Christmas today here on the west side of Michigan! Everything is so beautiful!
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759. Weather456
11:27 AM AST on December 25, 2007


Things are certainly becoming interesting. A strong 500 mb shortwave trough/low is centered over Eastern Louisiana at 31N/91W. This trough/low is producing a southwesterly flow over the Gulf Region with mid-upper level cloudiness and moisture extending from the Eastern Pacific Ocean across Mexico and into the Gulf of Mexico. The moisture becomes deeper over the Northeast Gulf and the South-Eastern United States where scattered showers exist. The diffluent flow between the shortwave and deep-layered ridge over the Atlantic has begun to initialize a broad area of low pressure just east of Florida. This area will continue to become more define and deeper as it moves up the United States East Coast. The remainder of the forecast region is under the influence of high pressure and weak surface pressure gradient. Mainly fair to mostly cloudy skies and light winds.

There are clear indications of a well-define surface ridge over the Atlantic. Infrared imagery shows fair weather with shallow low level cloudiness embedded within 15-20 knot anticyclonic flow. Mid-upper level cloudiness and moisture continues in an anticyclonic fashion from the Southeast US into the Western Atlantic north of to 40W north of 35N.

by W456
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
758. DenverMark
3:12 PM GMT on December 25, 2007
Merry Christmas Dr. M!!
It's a nice White Christmas for us in Denver :-)
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757. lawntonlookers
2:04 PM GMT on December 25, 2007
Merry Christmas to everyone. No White Christmas in Harrisburg, PA. Not sure about the end of the week and New Year. Depends on how cold it gets.
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755. Weather456
8:11 AM AST on December 25, 2007
enjoy the remainder of the day.....be back later
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
754. Weather456
7:46 AM AST on December 25, 2007
During the remainder of the year I will be posting some of the most spectacular weather images taken this year:

Number 1: A super low in the South Pacific Taken November 9 2007.

Number 2: The eye of Hurricane Dean in August 2007.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
752. Weather456
7:45 AM AST on December 25, 2007
Good Christmas Day to all!
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
751. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
6:31 AM GMT on December 25, 2007
Latest CMC model for possible tropical cyclone Melanie in the Western Australia area this week.

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750. JLPR
2:39 AM AST on December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas everyone and happy New Year!!!
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749. Ivansrvivr
4:51 AM GMT on December 25, 2007
GulfcoastScotsman wrote:
But the GOSPEL ACORDING TO GORE and the Kyoto council of church elders found that sooooo not sexy to pick on those poor third world-ers. Besides...{{ most of them cannot read the inconveientnet truth and as it is such cannot understand english well enough to support the film at the box office.}}

That means those poor third worlders hear more truth from ALGORE than we do. ALGORE puts more CO2 into atmosphere flying around the world (in his Gulfstream learjet) trying push his socialist world government garbage than everybody on this blog put together. If you don't know anything about airplanes-Gulfstream Learjets are gas guzzlers. Do as Gore says, not as he does, right? He is smarter than us regular folk.

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748. hydrus
4:28 AM GMT on December 25, 2007
I thanked weather 456 the other day for the satellite pics he has been posting.I think they are educational and worth every bit of space they take.
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747. Weather456
11:33 PM AST on December 24, 2007
Santa's Update

Current Location:

Mansfield, Ohio, United States

You can track Santa tonight:


Anyways....I'm calling it a night...see u till then.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
746. Weather456
11:11 PM AST on December 24, 2007
Tropical Invest 98S

0000 UTC DEC 25 2007

Pattern Type: Excellent pre-depression curve bands.

Current Intensity: CI 1.5

Adjustments: Met agrees

Final Estimate: CI 1.5

Dvroak Trends:
0000 UTC DEC 25 2007

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
745. Weather456
11:05 PM AST on December 24, 2007
Wow..I saw 98S coming.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
744. Orcasystems
3:04 AM GMT on December 25, 2007
Ahhh man, we are going to get crapped on again on Vancouver Island. Another big nasty system coming over for Christmas.


East Vancouver Island
3:39 PM PST Monday 24 December 2007
Wind warning for
East Vancouver Island continued

Southeasterly winds up to 100 km/h are expected over the Queen Charlottes and North Coast - coastal sections this evening and over Central Coast - coastal sections and North Vancouver Island overnight.

Southeasterly winds will rise to 50 to 70 km/h over West Vancouver Island overnight and over the other south coast regions Tuesday morning.

This is a warning that potentially damaging winds are expected or occurring in these regions. Monitor weather conditions..Listen for updated statements.

An intense pacific frontal system approaching the north coast this evening will move across the coast tonight through Tuesday afternoon. With the passage of the frontal system, strong southeasterly winds ahead of the front are expected to develop this evening over the north coast, overnight over the central coast and Tuesday morning over most south coast regions. Winds will abate Tuesday morning for the north and Tuesday afternoon for the south as the front moves away from the regions
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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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