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Greenland ice mass loss after the 2010 summer

Posted on 1 November 2010 by John Cook

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released the Arctic Report Card. The report contains a wealth of information about the state of climate in the Arctic circle (mostly disturbing). Especially noteworthy is the news that in 2010, Greenland temperatures were the hottest on record. It also experienced record setting ice loss by melting. This ice loss is reflected in the latest data from the GRACE satellites which measure the change in gravity around the Greenland ice sheet (H/T to Tenney Naumer from Climate Change: The Next Generation and Dr John Wahr for granting permission to repost the latest data).


Figure 1: Greenland ice mass anomaly - deviation from the average ice mass over the 2002 to 2010 period. Note: this doesn't mean the ice sheet was gaining ice before 2006 but that ice mass was above the 2002 to 2010 average.

The ice sheet has been steadily losing ice and the rate of ice loss has doubled over the 8 year period since gravity measurements began. The accelerating ice loss is independently confirmed by GPS measurements of uplifting bedrock. The GRACE data gives us an insight into why Greenland is losing ice mass at such an accelerating rate - ice loss has spread from the south east all the way up the west coast:


Figure 2: rate of mass change from Greenland over 2003-2007 and 2003-2010 periods. Mass loss rate has spread up the north western ice margin over the last few years. 

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Comments 51 to 53 out of 53:

  1. This is interesting as the ice loss of present does not seem to be much different than the ice loss from the 30's and 40's.
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  2. @Camburn: "This is interesting as the ice loss of present does not seem to be much different than the ice loss from the 30's and 40's." You should actually read the articles you link to. From the article: "Their evidence reinforces the belief that glaciers and other bodies of ice are exquisitely hyper-sensitive to climate change and bolsters the concern that rising temperatures will speed the demise of that island's ice fields, hastening sea level rise." "The fact that recent changes to Greenland's ice sheet mirror its behavior nearly 70 years ago is increasing researchers' confidence and alarm as to what the future holds. Recent warming around the frozen island actually lags behind the global average warming pattern by about 1-2 degrees C but if it fell into synch with global temperatures in a few years, the massive ice sheet might pass its “threshold of viability” – a tipping point where the loss of ice couldn't be stopped."
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  3. Regarding Glenn Tamblyn 14; "What to do?" Comments desired on the following: 1. U.S. citizens pay out about $1,000 per capita per year for various charities. 2. All over the place I see well meaning folks straining conditions in , say, New England, to make their own self sustaining home..say online solar plus geothermal. But as for me 3. Why is there no charity I can contribute to for constructing soneone else a renewable energy source where it would do the most good? I can envision some variant of Habitat for Humanity focussed on installing solar in Arizona or people banding together to sponsor a windmill in the Gobi desert. Starting small, this could become big time....hundreds of billions of dollars. Then people living in Chicago high rises could donate money for renewables that are impractical for Chicago high rises? Why is there no such charity? Why?
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