Greenland Ice Melt Accelerates in Early June


(Image source: NSIDC)

After a warm winter, the spring that followed has been a cool one for Greenland. An upswing in the jet stream that had warmed Baffin Bay and the western coast of Greenland through early April faded and ice sheet melt through May has been slower than average.

But over recent days warmer air has moved into Greenland, melting ice along its coastal edges. This warm air influx was driven, in part, by a heat-wave in Scandinavia that then spilled warmer air over the North Atlantic and into the Arctic. This region of warmer air also invaded parts of the northeast coast of Greenland.

As temperatures increased, so did melt rates. By June 4, pace of melt was again well above average.


(Image source: NSIDC)

Melt occurred most intensely along the eastern and northern coasts with lesser amounts showing along the edge of Baffin Bay. Overall, about 15% of the Greenland Ice Sheet was showing melt by June 4.

2013 Compared to Past Years

During 2012, record summer heating caused the entire Greenland ice sheet to melt for some days during July. This kind of melt hasn’t been seen for over 100 years but many scientists are now predicting that 2012 melt paces could be seen as often as twice per decade or more.

And Greenland’s pace of melt is accelerating. During the 2000s rate of Greenland ice melt is five times that of the 1990s. During the past 20 years, Greenland has melted more than in any comparable period during the past 10,000 years.

That’s not to say that every year will be a record year like 2012. At this point, there’s no way we can tell if 2013 will meet or exceed Greenland’s melt during summer a year ago. Usually, it’s not the case that you get back to back records.

So far, the weather pattern hasn’t been as conducive for Greenland melt this year. But, lately, the Arctic has been very unstable and the weather rather unpredictable. So it’s worth keeping a close eye to Greenland as summer progresses.



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