By Matt Owens April 1, 2013
Below: the west coast of Greenland is showing a stark loss of snow cover for so early in the season. But this is just one of many signs that last year's record Greenland meltdown and the record-smashing Arctic sea ice loss were just the beginning of a rapid acceleration for the Climate Crisis.
Below: a second update of the stark lack of snow cover; the dark-colored rock of Greenland's coast is clearly visible in this image, produced with the same compiling method as above, and all images over about a 10 day time span at the end of March into the first days of April for their respective years. Some of the grayish areas are ice, apparently bare ice. Each image is about 160 x 160 km (about 100 x 100 miles).
Today is April Fool's Day, but this is no joke - over this past winter, there was persistent liquid water in the snow cover of Greenland - which is highly unusual - in fact, it's unprecedented so late in the season. As reported by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), meltwater persisted deep in the snow cover through at least middle December.
Usually, lower elevations of the ice sheet see meltwater accumulate in the snow cover at various points, and then that refreezes. But 2012 was the most extensive melt ever observed - causing the surface snow to partially melt over the entire Greenland ice sheet. Since water is an excellent store of heat, and snow is an excellent insulator, a lot of this liquid water stuck around for the winter. This lingering heat energy is just going to make this year's rapidly approaching spring melt that much worse.
Above: meltwater runoff in the summer of 2008 on the low elevation edge of the Greenland ice sheet. Heavy melting that summer removed snow cover from lower areas; since then melting has accelerated - reaching total surface area melting even at the highest altitudes in the summer of 2012. This melting trend is the beginning of catastrophic climate change making itself manifest. Photo Credit: Thomas Neumann, NASA, GSFC, via Flickr.
The NSIDC finding comes after a reanalysis of their model outputs. Those models were knocked out of calibration because of this winter's exceptionally high temperatures - forcing the recalibration. Along coastal Greenland, the winter air temperature has been 2.0 °C to 3.5 °C (3.6 °F to 6.3 °F) higher than the average for 1981 to 2010. In turn, the 1981 to 2010 average has been shown to be higher than the past 2,000 years for the Arctic as a whole (Kaufman et al. 2009, data set updated 2010 - data coverage running up to 1995):
Part of the reason for warm temperatures has been a negative Arctic Oscillation index (or AO for short), which is a gauge of low pressure over the Arctic. A negative AO means that pressure is unusually high in the Arctic. Pressure is expected to continue to be higher than normal as the Arctic warms (higher air temperature cause higher air pressure). Expect even more dramatic meltdowns soon - like this spring!
The image on the right side of this web page is the NSIDC graphic for Greenland surface melt. It updates daily.
Below: first a short video of the power of the meltwater runoff from the 2012 event. Then another short video from March 29th on the "new" Arctic.