Satellite data reveals extreme summer snowmelt in northern Greenland

Oct 08, 2008

The northern part of the Greenland ice sheet experienced extreme snowmelt during the summer of 2008, with large portions of the area subject to record melting days, according to Dr. Marco Tedesco, Assistant Professor of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at The City College of New York (CCNY), and colleagues. Their conclusion is based on an analysis of microwave brightness temperature recorded by the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) onboard the F13 satellite.

"Having such extreme melting so far north, where it is usually colder than the southern regions is extremely interesting," Professor Tedesco said. "In 2007, the record occurred in southern Greenland, mostly at high elevation areas where in 2008 extreme snowmelt occurred along the northern coast."

Melting in northern Greenland lasted up to 18 days longer than previous maximum values. The melting index, i.e. the number of melting days times the area subject to melting) was three times greater than the 1979-2007 average, with 1.545•106 square kilometers x days. The findings were reported in the October 6 edition of "EOS," a weekly newspaper published by the American Geophysical Union.

"The results obtained from SSM/I are consistent with the outputs of the MAR (Modèl Atmosphérique Régional) regional climate model, which indicated runoff 88 percent higher than the 1979 – 2007 mean and close to the 2007 value," Professor Tedesco noted. In addition, analysis of ground measurements from World Meteorological Organization automatic weather stations located close to where the record snowmelt was observed indicate surface/air maximum temperatures up to 3° Celsius above average.

The snowmelt and temperature anomalies occurred near Ellesmere Island, where several ice shelf break-ups were observed this summer. The region where the record melting days were recorded includes the Petermann glacier, which lost 29 square kilometers in July.

Professor Tedesco and his colleagues are currently analyzing possible causes for the high snowmelt in northern Greenland. High surface temperatures are, so far, the most evident factor. However other factors, such as solar radiation, could play a role, as well, he noted.

"The consistency of satellite, model and ground-based results provides a basis for a more robust analysis and synthesis tool," Professor Tedesco added. Next June, he and his colleagues plan to conduct field work in northern Greenland.

Source: City College of New York

Explore further: NASA's HS3 mission covers transition of Hurricane Cristobal

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New study finds charred forests increase snowmelt rate

Sep 18, 2013

(Phys.org) —When a major wildfire destroys a large forested area in the seasonal snow zone, snow tends to accumulate at a greater level in the burned area than in adjacent forests. But a new study found ...

Polar climate change may lead to ecological change

Aug 11, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Ice and frozen ground at the North and South Poles are affected by climate change induced warming, but the consequences of thawing at each pole differ due to the geography and geology, according to a Penn ...

La Nina brings flood risks and drought to the West

May 09, 2011

The winter and early spring have been extreme across the West, with record snowpacks bringing joy to skiers and urban water managers but severe flood risks to northern Utah, Wyoming and Montana.

Soot packs a punch on Tibetan Plateau's climate

Mar 03, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In some cases, soot – the fine, black carbon silt that is released from stoves, cars and manufacturing plants – can pack more of a climatic punch than greenhouse gases, according ...

Recommended for you

NASA HS3 instrument views two dimensions of clouds

3 hours ago

NASA's Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL) instrument, flying aboard an unmanned Global Hawk aircraft in this summer's Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel, or HS3, mission, is studying the changing profile of the atmosphere ...

Research drones launched into Hurricane Edouard

5 hours ago

U.S. government scientists are launching winged drones into Hurricane Edouard, hoping to collect data that could help forecasters understand what makes some storms strengthen into monsters while others fade away.

User comments : 0