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

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

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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

References
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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444. sullivanweather
11:44 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
linden,

Perhaps your filter settings are such that it only shows comments recommended by other bloggers.

Most likely the comments you aren't seeing is because other bloggers disliked those comments and clicked on the '-' sign in the comment box.

According to the list you've made (mainly anti-AGW bloggers) those comments have been marked poorly (since there is a disproportionate number of AGW bloggers vs. anti-AGW ones)
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443. lindenii
11:32 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
What gives here?

When I fire up this blog...the following participants are 'minimized'

latitude25
JFV
vortfix
keeperofthegate
MikeOhio

Question 1. Why are they minimized?

Question 2. Why aren't the individuals I wish to minimize not minimized?

Question 3. Is there any way to have the system only minimize those individuals I wish to 'minimize'?

Whatever is going on, it sure smacks of 'censorship' and I am sure this blog doesn't want that to happen, do they?
442. sullivanweather
11:19 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
I believe that a weird localized anomaly is the cause of this very strange time series for Pangnirtung.

I've been watching that location for months now wondering what could be going on there.

Over the summer I thought that upwelling could be the culprit once the sea-ice retreated. However since the sea-ice has returned temperatures have continued to average around 3-4°C below normal. The only times temperatures have climbed to near/above normal levels have been during times of negative NAO.

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440. lindenii
11:05 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Did somebody already post this?

Tell me the MM GW gang hasn't lost its mind.

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2007/11/everything_is_caused_by_global.html

Please tell me that they aren't serious.
439. lindenii
11:01 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
435. latitude25 10:18 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Thanks sulli

So they did set a new record low.


That is the funniest thing I have ever seen, lat.

All that tap dancing just to avoid saying 'Yes'.

Way to go sulli !

Now I have to catch my breath from all that laughing.

Whew...
438. Weather456
6:39 PM AST on December 22, 2007
Village at Copper Base, Copper Mountain, Colorado



State of Colorado

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
437. ShenValleyFlyFish
5:43 PM EST on December 22, 2007
Merry Christmas to the Wunderground family
Shen

Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
436. Weather456
6:22 PM AST on December 22, 2007
TCWC Perth, Australia

TROPICAL CYCLONE OUTLOOK FOR NORTHWESTERN AUSTRALIA
Issued at 2:00pm WDT on Saturday the 22nd of December 2007
For the area between LONGITUDES 110 - 125 EAST

There are no significant tropical lows evident at this time although there is
increased thunderstorm activity associated with a developing monsoon trough.
This is likely to increase in the next few days and some computer models
indicate the formation of a low in the vicinity of 120E early next week with an
increasing chance of cyclone formation during the week. At this stage the
likelihood of a tropical cyclone developing in the next three days is:
Sunday: Low
Monday: Low
Tuesday: Low


Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
435. latitude25
5:19 PM EST on December 22, 2007
Thanks sulli

So they did set a new record low.


.
Member Since: August 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3654
434. Weather456
6:07 PM AST on December 22, 2007
Dry offshore flow enhanced by the Pacific High is dissipating any offshore clouds. The Marine layer is well downstream miles away from shore. Fog can resulting as a precursor to these events.





Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
433. sullivanweather
10:05 PM GMT on December 22, 2007


Didn't Barrow Alaska break a record low temperature yesterday?


Barrow, Alaska is coming off of perhaps their warmest 90-day period during this time of year.

Before these recent 4 or 5 cold days Barrow had been averaging an incredible 12-15 degrees above normal during their 90 day running mean.

The 30 day period from 11/15-12/15 Barrow had been running close to 20 degrees above normal with a few days of 30 degree above normal temperature departures.

One cold weather record cannot reverse all that.



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432. Weather456
5:26 PM AST on December 22, 2007
Occluded Cyclone



Popcorn cumulus over the Amazon region

They are a regular feature, developing in the forenoon, sometimes becoming thunderstorms in the afternoon, and dissipating at night. Small terrain gradients, leading to weak local wind regimes, account for the random distribution of cloud elements. The diurnal cycle is directly controlled by radiation; upward motion and condensation result from daytime heating of the ground; radiational cooling at night favors subsidence, and that evaporates cloud. The semi-circle in the image below marks these features. The location of the Amazon River, clearly eveident on the visible channel.



Cumulus clouds tell the direction of the Wind...

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
429. latitude25
4:05 PM EST on December 22, 2007
Some one that can read these things better than I can
Didn't Barrow Alaska break a record low temperature yesterday?

Link
Member Since: August 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3654
428. hydrus
8:26 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Sfl-cat 5-and SurfMom--It was good talking to yall.I hope to do it again.Cat 5 -there is alot of neat storm history about captiva & sanibel--other than the ones i mentioned.I think you would appreciate it.Check it out if you go to any of the libraries out there! i,ll be back later.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19608
427. Sfloridacat5
8:33 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Be back later.
Have a wonderful holiday everyone.

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426. Sfloridacat5
8:26 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
I surfed Sabastien Inlet a while back. The surf was nearly perfect that day. The line up was pretty crazy with guys all over the place. It was a challenge just to keep from getting run over by someone. The break felt very cramped and wasn't a good experience (that day)I drove a little further down the coast and found a nice spot with only a few guys out. I caught some real nice waves that day. It was clean and about chest high.
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425. cchsweatherman
8:25 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Just wanted to stop by to say that if anyone wants to contact me for any reason, just send me a message and I will check them during the holidays. I will not be around to post starting tomorrow until Wednesday. Also, I will not be updating my site during this time as well. So, enjoy the holidays everyone.
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424. Sfloridacat5
8:18 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Sometime I would get tired of fighting for waves and I would just move down from the main peak and catch whatever comes in. That way I catch more waves and don't have to work so hard.
But down by the pier, the waves are more lined up and produce longer rides.


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423. hydrus
8:10 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Sfl cat 5--what a shame about blind pass,that was our short cut to bomans beach and the lighthouse.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19608
422. surfmom
8:12 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
sflcat - thanks for the infor - means I belong on the beach with a camera or on the inside with the groms. The guys are good to me here on Siesta Key, cause they've watched me from when I could barely stay level on my board, to catching a wave, in Ft pierce --it's real family style and plenty of wave to stay out of the way - I never surf the local Venice beach because I just don't belong there - I'd only get in the way and I own that - truly you must earn the place in the line-up - I respect that. Even so, I really enjoyed reading about the wave set up and how it works --- had no clue, printed it out for a later read. bbl
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
421. hydrus
8:06 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
SurfMom--I to like ft pierce because of the very large beach itself& the break is long for better $ longer rides, and if its a calm day you can still surf the swells from distant storms.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19608
420. Sfloridacat5
8:10 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Hydrus
Blind pass is now completely filled in. Its just a regular beach with a few rocks extending out from it.

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419. Sfloridacat5
8:03 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
During the Fall and Spring there is surf all the time. The Texas Coast experiences strong S.E. winds for several months of the year. Then cold fronts push off shore (Oct- March) and turn the winds off shore. The conditions can be perfect right before and after a cold front moves through.
Then the strong NW winds eventually blow the surf flat for a few days. Then the winds kick back up out of the S.E. again and the swell builds.

The locals are pretty cool as long as you know what your doing. As long as you don't drop in on someone or screw up good waves, they usually leave you alone. As you know its all about respect. If they see your a good surfer, they will treat you pretty nice.
But they can be mean to someone just learning to surf hanging out in the main line up.
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418. hydrus
7:56 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Sfl cat 5 -Blind pass has been opened & filled many times,blind pass & redfish pass were created by hurricanes. The real bad ones were--Donna 1960--1921--1926--1944--1947--1910--1873--chariey--2004.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19608
417. surfmom
8:03 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
IvanS - huge LOL your cat just gave my son and I a HUGE belly laugh - check out his toes....what a hoot - having too much fun yipping about surf - but I am going now to wrap presents. Take care all nice chatter with you all
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
416. Sfloridacat5
7:59 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
The best waves on the Texas Coast are found just north of the jetty on South Padre Island. They get long lined up waves when there's a decent swell.
But Bobhall pier in Corpus is a lot more consistant.
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415. surfmom
8:00 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
sflcat - had no idea about that - if I understand you - you are saying there is surf all the time??? is the line-up easy going or territorial? For example I find Ft. Pierce friendly and easy going, but Sebast. inlet aggressive.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
414. surfmom
7:58 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Hydrus you were lucky, you knew this state when it was unique and special. I weep at the changes that have accured since I have been here. I love my home beach, I love living here - the density has changed everything.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
413. surfmom
7:56 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
yes, this year was a bummer, the best day for me was groundswell from Dean. None of the storms were wave makers for either coast.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
412. Ivansrvivr
7:54 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
- 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.

Sounds like the Gulf stream is being deflected by colder denser fresh water.
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411. Sfloridacat5
7:55 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
The most consistant spot on the Texas coast is Bobhall pier near Corpus Christi. They have a huge surf scene there. On good days the line up is packed.
The fall and Spring are the best times of year. The summer is usually flat, but in the spring and fall there's usually surf almost everyday.
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410. surfmom
7:51 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Hydrus ---ahhhhh you spoke of my most favorite beach in the world, besides a secret one in Costa Rica ....Fort Pierce - gosh how I just love that beach. I take my young son, the boards,the dog and on occasion the gerbils and head over there. Been treking over there for surf safari's for about 5 years.I started surfing the last three. they started to over build it, but I think with the tanking of housing market should slow it down. I do hear there is terrible RED TIDE over there, just not sure where on the east coast
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
409. hydrus
7:51 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Sfl cat 5--I have not been there since august of 2000...but lived there in the 1970,s and 1980,s.It has changed alot since then.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19608
408. Sfloridacat5
7:51 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
We've been surfing at Bonita Beach when there's a hurricane swell. We caught a handful of chest high clean days with light offshore winds during the 05 season. But this year was a bust.
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407. surfmom
7:42 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
neat to know sflcat - have heard some good things @padre island - always wondered about the beaches there. I know the gomex isn't a wave machine, but we certainly put out some great surfers (lopez brothers) - I just found I needed to be very vigilant - like yesterday only four guys out there plus me --we were watching for the window - most people would have said there was no surf --well from 1:00PM on, they were right - but for those of us watching --the AM three hour session was really fun - check aurasurf.com for pics. Well must do the xmas tasks now - look for surf (albeit somewhat puny monday xmas eve morning ho - ho - ho
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
406. hydrus
7:43 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Sfloridacat-5-here are my favorite FL surf spots--sabastian-venice-fort pierce-coastal everglades---I used to surf the southern end of fort myers bch (wind & weather permitting.)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19608
404. Ivansrvivr
7:42 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
In Florida our prevailing winds here are out of the east. Best place to surf in florida is Hobe sound on the E.C. Wait till theres a good nor'easter - hobe sound would probably be worth the drive. People from all over go there.
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403. Sfloridacat5
7:41 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Hydrus,
Do you frequent Captiva much anymore?

We surf at Blind Pass (which is now all filled in) whenever there's a swell.
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402. Sfloridacat5
7:37 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Hey guys
I've been a surfer most my life and now live on the Gulf Coast near Ft. Myers. I catch a few good days each year in the GOM.

Over on the Texas coast (Padre Island/Bob Hall pier) we used to catch really good surf all the time. The coastal bend and south Texas get some nice sweels.

The Eastern GOM has very little swell action in comparison.
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400. latitude25
7:37 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Cowboy, someone posted a couple of links about that.
When you compare the two links, the US has done more to fix it's CO2 emissions, on it's own, than the countries that are required to do it by the UN.

and I'm also glad that the US is somewhat objectively looking at alternative energy research and curbing emmissions
Member Since: August 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3654
399. hydrus
7:35 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
SurfMom-I have lived in florida a very long time.I can say with assuredness the weather all over the state is wildly unpredictable at times.I was born on miami beach & raised on captiva is,but i have seen strange & dangerous weather all over the state.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19608
398. moonlightcowboy
7:32 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
The UN, a scam? It wouldn't be the first time! There's hardly a more corrupt body of so-called governance. Their track record speaks volumes for itself!

I'm glad the US has stayed away from Kyoto and Bali "consensus" and I'm also glad that the US is somewhat objectively looking at alternative energy research and curbing emissions. The IPCC's "science" is just "not in" and their credibility just doesn't exist.

The globe doesn't need a new world governance by the UN. And, certainly not one that exercises a global emissions tax on just a few countries, while allowing the rest of the world to continue to produce volumes of ACO2. This alone proves that there is no imminent, perilous threat from ACO2.

Maybe, the world will be more knowledgeable of this outrageous UN concept by the time Copenhagen rolls around! But, for this time of year, well, let me just say that "Ba(li)humbug" seems quite appropriate!
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29594
397. bollidear
7:28 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Michael, the point is it may well be getting warmer - but viewed in total historical context and not on flimsey 10 year data, it's just another warm period, which will be followed by a cold one then a warm one......and so on.

You would have to explain to me how human intervention in the Medieval Warm Period (1000-1300) made it warmer then than it is now?

How can that be possible given the Geek Theory that all this doom is man made?

We are simply pulling out what was known as the "Little Ice Age" (1400-1860)

"...the Earth was evidently coming out of a relatively cold period in the 1800s so that warming in the past century may be part of this natural recovery." Dr. John R. Christy - U. of Alabama.

Given another couple of hundred years you will see us dropping back into a cool period.

Mans effect on the "Greenhouse Effect" is no more than 0.2-0.3% - the primary influence is the Earth's rotation and orbit, as well as variations in the sun's energy output.

We have the docmented effects of Solar Variability of the 11 & 206 year cycles, the 21,000 year cycle of the tilt & elliptical orbit, the 41,000 year cycle of the +/- 1.5 degree axis wobble, and the 100,000 year cycle of the elliptical orbit.

Link

Landmass distribution (Continental Drift) effects the circulatory patterns of ocean currents. Along with the Sea Floor Spreading effect.

All of this is documented data that the Doom Geeks ignore.

If you really & honestly believe in the doom theory - then sell you cars and buy 100% biodegradeable products to avoid being seen as a hypocrite. One person can make a difference - Gore certainly thinks so.

In the meantime, the debate has allowed Governments to impose direct taxes on anything it can relate to "Global Warming" - is this a coincidence or a revenue stream? Has world attention been drawn away from "unpopular news" towards this Doomsday that we are rapidly approaching?

Informed debate is great - but politically driven, unfounded speculation from a group of hysterical fame seekers is none too impressive.




395. Cavin Rawlins
7:18 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Seasons Greetings to all

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
394. sporteguy03
7:16 PM GMT on December 22, 2007
Hey Stormjunkie!
Good to see you! Happy Holidays from wunderground!
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5120

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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.