August 16th, 2012 by Joshua S Hill
Most years would see us waiting until early September before we received notification of any record of Greenlandic melting being broken or not, but this year we get the news early! Four weeks early, in fact, according to Marco Tedesco, assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at The City College of New York, who has reported that cumulative melting in the first week in August has already exceeded the record of 2010.
“With more yet to come in August, this year’s overall melting will fall way above the old records. That’s a goliath year – the greatest melt since satellite recording began in 1979,” said Professor Tedesco.
This spells a change for the face of southern Greenland, he added, with the ice sheet thinning at its edges and lakes on top of glaciers proliferating, who also noted that this latest record breaking performance molds well with what climate models have been predicting; the only difference being how quickly it seems to have happened.
Tedesco calculated the duration and extent of melting throughout the melting season — which normally runs from June to early-September — across the whole ice sheet, using data provided by the National Snow and Ice Data Center collected from the United States Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program.
This ‘cumulative melting index’ is shown as a measure of the strength of any individual melting season: the higher the index, the more melting has taken place.
“We have to be careful because we are only talking about a couple of years and the history of Greenland happened over millennia,” cautioned Professor Tedesco. “But as far as we know now, the warming that we see in the Artic is responsible for triggering processes that enhance melting and for the feedback mechanisms that keep it going. Looking over the past few years, the exception has become part of the norm.”
Dr. Thomas Mote, Professor of Geography at the University of Georgia and colleague of Professor Tedesco, confirmed that the cumulative melt in 2012 had surpassed that of 2010 using a similar analysis.
Original data and graphics from Dr. Tedesco’s analysis can be found here at his Greenland Melting site.
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