2010 Saw Record Greenland Melt

January 22, 2011

New York Times:

Greenland’s massive ice sheet experienced record surface melting and runoff last year, according to research released today.

Unusually warm conditions in much of the country helped extend the annual melting season by up to 50 days longer in 2010 than the average observed between 1979 and 2009, researchers found.

Last year also set records for the amount of water runoff from the ice surface, loss of surface ice and the number of days when ice was bare rather than blanketed by snow. Summer snowfall was below average.

More below:

MSNBC reports:

The ice sheet covering Greenland melted at the fastest rate since records began in 1979, a new study shows. That’s important because the ice sheet is becoming a major contributor to projected sea level rises in coming decades.

Physorg.com also has the story:

“This past melt season was exceptional, with  in some areas stretching up to 50 days longer than average,” said Dr. Marco Tedesco, director of the Cryospheric Processes Laboratory at The City College of New York (CCNY – CUNY), who is leading a project studying variables that affect ice sheet melting.

“Melting in 2010 started exceptionally early at the end of April and ended quite late in mid- September.”

Washington Post notes:

“This past melt season was exceptional, with melting in some areas stretching up to 50 days longer than average,” said Marco Tedesco, the paper’s lead author and the director of the Cryosphere Processes Laboratory at the City College of New York. “Melting in 2010 started exceptionally early at the end of April and ended quite late in mid- September.”

While the eight researchers from the U.S., Belgium and Holland do not provide a specific estimate for how much melting took place in 2010, which has tied 2005 as the warmest year on record, they write an analysis of several different data sources “paints a portrait of strongly negative surface mass balance during 2010.”

The scientists examined surface temperature anomalies over the Greenland ice sheet surface, as well as estimates of surface melting from satellite data, ground observations and models.

They noted that summer temperatures up to 5.4 Fahrenheit above average, along with reduced snowfall, helped contribute to the high level of melt. As bare ice was exposed earlier and for longer than in previous years it absorbed more heat from the sun, creating what is known as an “albedo” effect in which melting is accelerated.

In an e-mail, Tedesco noted that he and his colleagues estimate based on computer modeling that runoff in 2010 is 530 gigatons a year, compared to a 1958-2009 average of 274 gigatons a year and a 1979-2009 average of 285 gigatons a year.

Different aspects of the study were funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund.

WWF climate specialist Dr. Martin Sommerkorn said in a statment that the findings had serious implcations for rising sea levels worldwide.

“Sea level rise is expected to top three feet by 2100, largely due to melting from ice sheets,” Sommerkorn said. “And it will not stop there – the longer we take to limit greenhouse gas production, the more melting and water level rise will continue.”



Study online here.


14 Responses to “2010 Saw Record Greenland Melt”

  1. mspelto Says:

    This is a magnificent scene of water and ice. This is one of my favorite aspects of working on glaciers, the water is there today and gone tomorrow, the rivers change constantly. Another scene of water and ice that is spell binding is from the Under the Pole expedition

  2. coloradobob Says:

    Narsarsuaq, Greenland set 19 new high temperature records between Nov. 19th and Jan. 2nd –


    Jan. 1st 2011 –

    Max Temperature 49 F 28 F 48 F (2011)
    Min Temperature 33 F 12 F -2 F (2008)

    28F and 12F are the averages .

  3. omnologos Says:

    Models aside, what else has been used to “see” the record Greenland melt?

    • greenman3610 Says:

      this data is not modeled. The GRACE satellite system gives the most widely cited data set that indicates not only Greenland, but Antarctica, are losing mass.
      Described here in congressional testimony by Dr Richard Alley:

      Results of most recent studies using this data discussed here, with links to studies:


      • BlueRock Says:

        If you’ve not encountered it yet, there’s a paper that the deniers are whipping out whenever they see GRACE mentioned:

        – Ice is melting half as fast as thought! http://www.tudelft.nl/live/pagina.jsp?id=7a6c3d15-1c1e-4869-b378-840a000c6803&lang=en

        Responses: http://www.skepticalscience.com/Are-ice-sheet-losses-overestimated.html + http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/01/forbes-rich-list-of-nonsense/ – “one paper is necessary but not sufficient to overturn all previous science – and the ice is *still* melting.”

        • greenman3610 Says:

          the awkward thing for deniers about that paper is that, the basic assumption is that global warming is real, and the ice is melting, and it moves the argument into the realm of “how fast?”
          So, if they want to use that paper, they in effect stipulate that Monckton and others are full of hot air.

      • omnologos Says:

        thanks. The thingsbreak links are from 2009. I have clicked on some of the items that appear in their comments too, and they are all from 2009. Do you know of any updated from GRACE or from the GPS measurements?

        Bill Chameides here mentions a possible overestimation of 33Gt/year, i.e. of around 200Gt between 2003 and 2009.

        But that was all preliminary back in 2009. As for 2010, the Tedesco work is pivoted around the “Modèle Atmosphérique Régional” (MAR).

        Other “crocks” that have escaped. Tedesco’s main interest is “to improve the capability of the models by ingesting this information from satellites and ground observations” (his words, reported in the NYT). In that case, it’s hard to see how the ERL work can be used to say much about the “2010 melting record”: if you use some data to calibrate an instrument, you can’t use the instrument to analyse that same data.

        Also, in case anybody missed it, from the NYT again, the southern Greenland community of Narsarssuaq recorded its warmest-ever winter and spring, warmest May, and warmest year since observations began in 1951. Even Nuuk has now broken its own record that was from the early 1940s if I am not mistaken (not sure by how much), so the observed period for Narsarssuaq is unlikely to be enough to tell us much.

        There’s also a couple of suspiciously-“warmist” 😎 articles about Greenland from the NYT around 1938-1939, in case anybody has access to those archives.

        • greenman3610 Says:

          It’s not unusual for work to be ongoing with models while we wait for more data to come in. Then you compare the data and the model, and make the model better.
          It’s not much of a stretch to imagine the models are probably reflecting something real given the global temp records set this year.
          It is a good question as to where the GRACE data is archived, and how often it’s updated. Will ask around.

  4. […] Whilst reading recommended material by “Climate Crocks”‘ Peter Sinclair about the “record melt” SEEN in Greenland in 2010 (my main curiosity being collecting evidence that somebody somewhere has actually SEEN the […]

  5. […] reading recommended material by “Climate Crocks”‘ Peter Sinclair about the “record melt” SEEN in Greenland in 2010 (my main curiosity being collecting evidence that somebody somewhere has actually SEEN the […]

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