Greenland Melt Starts Early

April 12, 2016


Climate Home:

Polar researchers thought their models were broken when they first saw the results.
Almost 12% of Greenland’s ice sheet was melting on Monday, according to data crunched by the Danish Meteorological Institute.

It beat by almost a month the previous record for a melt of more than 10%, on 5 May 2010.
“We had to check that our models were still working properly,” Peter Langen, climate scientist at DMI, told blog Polar Portal.


Temperature readings on the ice were in line with the numbers, however, exceeding 10C in some places.

Even a weather station 1840 metres above sea level recorded a maximum of 3.1C, which data analysts said would be warm for July, let alone April.

Greenland’s usual melt season runs from early June to September. “Too much. Too early,” tweeted the World Meteorological Organisation.


Polar Portal:

The map (above) shows how much sunlight is reflected from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Bright areas reflect more sunlight than dark areas and as a consequence dark areas are heated more than bright areas. This phenomenon is known as the albedo effect.

The map is shown as anomalies, which means that the average of the albedo measured in the period 2000-2009 has been subtracted. In this way it can be seen where the ice is brighter and darker than normal.

Red areas indicate where melting and possibly black carbon from wildfire accumulating on the surface darkens the ice. Blue areas indicate where fresh snow or more snow than normal has accumulated. Albedo thus provides a convenient indicator of the competing effects of ice mass gain from snowfall and ice mass loss from melting. Melting ice tends to be darker (has a lower albedo) because melt causes ice crystals to round and if the melting point is reached, liquid water also lowers the snow and ice reflectivity. Any change in reflectivity thereby tends to amplify subsequent changes through a positive feedback loop. Thus, albedo is a very sensitive ice climate indicator.

The map is based on NASA satellite measurements from the MODIS sensor that measures the reflection of sunlight from the surface. The map is updated weekly. These types of measurements cannot be made in the winter season due to lack of sunlight. The animation shows the latest 50 days of available satellite measurements.

A trusted expert tells me: “The culprit driving melt at this time is an interesting omega pressure pattern with a very cold north America and warm air over Greenland.”


Climate Central:

Little to no melt through winter is the norm as sub-zero temperatures keep Greenland’s massive ice sheet, well, on ice. Warm weather usually kicks off the melt season in late May or early June, but this year is a bit different.

Record warm temperatures coupled with heavy rain mostly sparked 12 percent of the ice sheet to go into meltdown mode (hat tip to Climate Home’s Megan Darby). Almost all the melt is currently centered around southwest Greenland.

According to Polar Portal, which monitors all things ice-related in the Arctic, melt season kicks off when 10 percent of the ice sheet experiences surface melt. The previous record for earliest start was May 5, 2010.

The summit of the Greenland ice sheet has also been record warm. On Tuesday, it reached 20.3°F (-6.5°C) which while obviously below freezing, is still record mild for this time of year and is roughly 40°F above normal. And the wamrth isn’t over yet.

Temperatures could reach as high as 57°F above normal this week. It’s distinctly possible more temperatures records could fall before the week is out.

23 Responses to “Greenland Melt Starts Early”

  1. John Nab Says:

    It’s the end of the world!

    • dumboldguy Says:

      I had similar thoughts, and the “omega pattern” brings to mind “Alpha to Omega” and the Book of Revelation. Are we in the biblical end times? Is it being brought on by the fossil fuel interests and the Repugnants via CAGW? Ask your neighborhood fundamentalist.

  2. rayduray Says:

    This topic is also being discussed at the RobertScribbler blog:

  3. I searched the text of this article, as well as the DMI and WMO websites and nowhere can I see anybody saying “end of the world”.

    Only John Nab thinks this, for some reason.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      We’re not getting off that easy.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Depends on your definition of “world”, how big it is, and what your time scale for “the end” is, doesn’t it?

      Those who are living the American Dream and just bought a house 5 feet above sea level with a 30 year mortgage might consider it to be the end of their small “world” when the ocean rises 5 feet and takes their house in 17 to 22 years. That’s assuming that the rise to the 10 foot mark by 2050-2060 will be linear and not exponential as so may indicators seem to be trending of late.

      • Greg Wellman Says:

        Sea level rise is serious, but it isn’t going to be *that* fast! The worst case scenarios that have survived rigorous peer review are somewhat over 6 feet by 2100. There’s no plausible physical mechanism for 10 feet by 2060. The current rate is under two inches per decade (which is still a significant problem!) and while there is good reason to expect some acceleration if we don’t go carbon-neutral tomorrow, the acceleration you’d need to get 10 feet by 2060 is just not plausible. I figure we could easily get 4-5 feet by 2100, and that’s disastrous for (at least) Louisiana, Florida, Egypt & Bangladesh.

        • Greg Wellman Says:

          I wrote that before seeing the link to the Insurance Journal article quoting Margaret Davidson “NOAA’s senior advisor for coastal inundation”.
          “The latest field data out of West Antarctic is kind of an OMG thing,” she said.
          Not yet peer-reviewed, but yeah, the estimates might be going up.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            I figured you hadn’t noticed the “latest OMG data” before you wrote that.

            MIGHT be going up? Anyone who doesn’t accept that nearly all the “estimates” have done nothing but go up in the past is in a state of denial. We will continue to whistle past the graveyard until all the ghosts of our past denial and foot-dragging on CO2 rise out of their graves and overwhelm us. (And no, I haven’t been watching too many horror movies, I’ve been watching the evolving AGW science).

          • dumboldguy Says:

            A good link, and the results from all that modeling agree nicely with what my Magic 8 Ball and Ouija board tell me. The fact is that we are babes in the woods with all this “modelling”, and I will repeat that it seems like we are always “underestimating” reality, although there are some nuggets of realism buried in the studies—like this one:

            “….even millennia after we will have stopped burning fossil fuels, the CO2 content of the atmosphere and the global temperature will continue to be higher than now, and ice will continue to melt. Even if we limit global warming to 2°C, the likely end result will be a sea-level rise of around 25 meters”. Take that, NC and FL!

          • Sir Charles Says:

            Recently published research by climate scientist James Hansen and 18 other prominent scientists, including experts on Greenland and Antarctic ice and a leader of the IPCC, indicates that continued high fossil fuel emissions this century could cause sea-level rise reaching “several meters over a timescale of 50 – 150 years”, along with other disastrous climate effects such as the “slowdown and eventual shutdown of the Atlantic overturning circulation with cooling of the North Atlantic region”.


  4. To add to the info

    Margaret Davidson, NOAA’s senior advisor for coastal inundation and resilience science and services, and Michael Angelina, executive director of the Academy of Risk Management and Insurance, offered their take on climate change data in a conference session titled “Environmental Intelligence: Quantifying the Risks of Climate Change.”

    Davidson said recent data that has been collected but has yet to be made official indicates sea levels could rise by roughly 3 meters by 2050-2060, far higher and quicker than current projections. Until now most projections have warned of seal level rise of up to 4 feet by 2100.

    These new findings will likely be released in the latest sets of reports on climate change due out in the next few years.

    “The latest field data out of West Antarctic is kind of an OMG thing,” she said.

    Davidson’s purpose was to talk about how NOAA is sharing information with the insurance community and the public, and to explain how data on climate change is being collected.

    She explained that reports like those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment, which come out roughly every five years, are going on old data.

    By the time the scientists compiling those reports get the data it’s roughly two years old, because it took those gathering the data that long to collect it. It takes authors of the reports a few years to compile them.

    “By the time we get out the report, it’s actually synthesizing data from about a decade ago,” she said.

    The projects he’s involved with have instead looked at weather extremes.

    “By looking at extremes I can actually acknowledge that I have a problem,” he said.

    He used the notorious Bell Curve grading system to illustrate his point.

    The goal of the curve is to achieve a 70 percent average among students. But if a teacher got to that 70 percent figure by having half the students failing poorly and half doing excellently, there’s a problem: half of the students aren’t getting it.

    Looking at extreme temperature indices from more than 40 years ago and now, “things are different,” he said.

    So too are days of excessive rain, and excessive dry days, wind power and the sea level index.

    “They’re all up,” he said.

    He added: “We’re in a different climate. The climate has changed.”


    sea levels could rise by roughly 3 meters by 2050-2060

    • redskylite Says:

      Thanks for sharing that industry related information conference, when professional insurers and risk management take note it’s difficult to understand how people can listen to the bellicose Watts & Co with their flawed reasoning. To business global warming is all about loss of profit, and impact to shareholders. When they are worried enough more and more people will wake up to the looming threats.

      I remember Peter ran some good forums on Munich RE a few years ago showing growing impact to the insurance business.

      This from the Globe and Mail authored by Don Forgeron (chief executive officer of the Insurance Bureau of Canada) on lack of strategy on Climate, flooding, devastation in Canada. More pushes from business must lead to progress, and hopefully urgent progress.

      • The scary thing is Coastal US states with high risk cannot get residential or business insurance privately.
        The Federal Government is the insurer of last report.

        Put simply the taxpayer foots all the bill

      • data that has been collected but has yet to be made official indicates sea levels could rise by roughly 3 meters by 2050-2060, far higher and quicker than current projections

        Validating Hansen

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Frank Speaking,

      Thanks for that and…. Wow!

      Those two high level NOAA posts would seem to have a lot of credibility (I have no idea of these folks specifically, but I think we can assume they do). And their prognostications are [i]momentous[/i].

      I would love to know more about the time gap of SLR data collection and publication. Ten years is a lifetime if we are indeed at the beginnings of an exponential rate change.

      Again – a reminder – the last update we had on SLR was a 10 mm increase in less than one year. That’s more than a doubling of the 2014 rate, which was substantially higher than the 2012-2013 rate.

  5. redskylite Says:

    From the University of Alaska Fairbanks a new warning on high altitudes of Alaska, still time to avoid the worse of ice loss, wonder how long the window will stay open. Don’t let us miss the fleeting chances we still have left. It will be sad when we pass the boundary and see the quagmire of horror that human indifference has caused.

  6. Are you sure the Omega is drawn the right way? (Methinks the cold air enters through its bottom opening, thus it should be drawn upside down.)

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