Arctic Warmth Melting Greenland In October

greenland_melt_nomelt oct 8

(Anomalous late season melt for Greenland along the coastal regions both north and south. Image source: NSIDC.)

It’s Fall in the Arctic. Temperatures are dropping. Sea ice is expanding. Snow and frigid weather slowly advance through these extreme northern lands.

But the pace of cooling this year — as in recent years — is far slower than what we would have typically seen just a few decades ago.

For in a crescent encircling the North Pole from the Laptev Sea through the Beaufort through the Canadian Archipelago and on into Greenland, temperatures are ranging between 5 and 12 degrees Celsius above average (9-20 degrees F). This extra atmospheric heat has tipped the entire Arctic into a +2.3 positive temperature anomaly — a rather high range for so early in the season. A strong polar amplification evident well in advance of a winter which is likely to see total positive anomalies reach between 3-6 C for the entire Arctic.

October 9 GFS Anomaly

(GFS temperature anomaly map for October 9 of 2014 shows the world at a very hot +0.69 positive anomaly above the already hotter than typical 1979-2000 average. Arctic anomalies now average +2.3 C with spikes in the range of +12 C for some locations. Note the +3-11 C hot spot over Greenland. Image source: University of Maine.)

The oceans are bleeding record or near record heat into the Arctic atmosphere. The thinned sea ice, in the range of 6th lowest on record, allows more of that heat to hit the air. High amplitude waves in the Jet Stream deliver more heat than ever before from the lower latitudes.  An a heavy overburden of greenhouse gasses — at even higher concentrations than in the rest of the world — traps more and more long wave radiation trying to escape into space as the sun’s angle lowers and the long winter night approaches.

For many regions of the Arctic, what this means is more Summer-like conditions continuing on into Fall. For Greenland, this has meant levels of melt that are more than two standard deviations outside the norm for the month of October.

Greenland Still Melting in October

Over Southern Greenland, we’ve seen temperatures in the range of 10 to -14 C from the coastline to the top of the ice sheet. And over Northeastern Greenland, we still see temperatures approaching freezing — an up shot of the warm air and water pool in the ocean zone between Greenland and Svalbard.

As a result of this lingering warmth, NSIDC measures are showing melt through substantial zones — one around the western coastal region near the Jackobshavn Glacier and another in Northeast Greenland in the Zachariae Glacier outflow region. Pushing melt totals more into the range of what is typical for either late May or early September.

greenland_melt_area_plot oct

(Greenland melt plot for 2014 showing 3-4 percent of the ice sheet melting during early October. A rate of melt outside the 2 standard deviation range and one that is highly atypical for this time of year. Image source: NSIDC.)

Throughout the next couple of days, unseasonal warmth is expected to build back into Southern Greenland and to possibly take root in the northwestern coastal region. With 5-18 C above average temps expected for many areas, it is likely that the abnormal Greenland melt will continue for at least the next couple of days.

As noted above, conditions remain in place for the Arctic to continue to experience highly abnormal warmth as Fall continues its advance into winter — with warmer than normal temperature departures likely to peak coincident with the deepest periods of Arctic darkness.


University of Maine


Hat Tip to Andy

Leave a comment


  1. wili

     /  October 9, 2014

    Would the dark snow that Box has been studying be playing any role in any of this at this time of year? Or is it total darkness already over all of GIS?


    • We still have sunlight in these areas this time of year. But the angle is very low as is the level of insolation. So it would be much less impactful than during summer.

      More important, right now, is latent heat in the ice, basal influence by sub-surface ocean warming, the beginning of amplification enhanced by high latent levels of ghg in the Arctic air, ocean surface warmth, and the currently observed changes in the Jet Stream transporting more heat northward.


  2. Right, Robert.
    It is good to follow this likely devastating warming of the Arctic and Greenland. This human caused “Arctic Emergency” is in full force. It’s proving to be a bit of an ‘Achilles heel’ for much of the climate.
    Thanks for this important update.


  3. marianne

     /  October 9, 2014

    Yes, thanks again. Quite awesome thunderweather over south-east area of Norway now, seems a bit out of season.


  4. – Different topic:

    There is a bit of weather circulation forming up in the Gulf of Alaska. Yet to see how much moisture it will entrain.
    Keeping an eye on possible events like this. As Colorado Bob brought up a while back — we don’t want to see a large scale dumping of water into those acres and acres of holding ponds, or lakes, at the Tar Sands. No, if those dikes, levees, and berms breach we will have a Alberta Tar Sea. No, thanks.
    Intellicast Pacific Satellite 09 Oct, 2014


  5. Peter Ellis

     /  October 9, 2014

    The melting in north Greenland around Peary Land has to be false – it’s 24 hour darkness there right now. That being so, there’s evidently something wrong with the sensors or the algorithm used to predict melt from the satellite signal. So why should we trust the melt at lower latitudes either?

    I’d Wait a while and check with folk providing the data before reading too much into this.


    • We’ve had above freezing temps in those regions recently. 24 hour dark doesn’t set in for some time yet. But will check back with NSIDC for updates.


  6. Scribbler,

    Tangential comment: I have followed with keen interest the contraction (and now expansion) of arctic ice this year. I have also closely followed the UMaine’s Climate Reanalyzer site (being a proud Mainer this came naturally). Juxtaposing these two, what I find very interesting is the ice expansion over water that is extremely anomalously warm. Obviously, the water in direct contact with air cools enough to freeze, but it seems to me that the ice then acts as a thermal barrier, helping the remaining water retain its heat. Unless all that thermal energy is entirely lost over the winter (which seems unlikely) or unless the water is substantially moved by currents (which also seems unlikely), then the residual heat would seem to indicate an earlier and perhaps more extensive melting next year.

    Have you read anything on this or discussed it with your network? I’d love to get more than just my musings on this.



    • Both the ice and the fresher layer containing the ice acts as a thermal barrier. And the build up of ocean surface heat in the Arctic is certainly one of the major contributors to the ice loss we’ve seen over time. But other factors such as weather can weigh very heavily on the Arctic. During early season, for example, insulation and melt pond formation have been identified as predictive for later season melt. As the Arctic grows cloudier with warming, the capacity of direct insulation to drive melt will diminish and, so, on balance we will look for other factors to determine melt. Over time, extra heat during winter is a likely driver, together with more warm storms and rainfall over the ice come summer.

      We need to remember that a lot of heat is being transported to and retained in the Arctic for various reasons. And that these mechanism and related feedbacks aren’t going to look like what we’re used to seeing.

      As for predictions for next year… We’ve had two pseudo recovery years thus far. Under the current trend, we are less likely to see a third and more likely to see something closer to the linear trend line. We are probably less likely to see new record lows next year without a stronger weather driver. 2016 and 2017 look more likely for record lows given the longer term trend, but seeing how the Arctic is so variable and with so many forces in play, any forecast should be looked at as a low confidence forecast.

      One of these years, though, sooner or later. We will have a cloudy May and June, because most months will be cloudier going forward, but despite the clouds, we’ll see record melt. May take years. But we’ll see it.


  7. Kevin Jones

     /  October 11, 2014

    10:58 UTC Wind SSE at 16 mph Temp 3.6C (38.5 F) Thule, Greenland. Keene, NH currently 39F….



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