2012: The Year Greenland Melted (AKA Alarmists Gone Wild)

“Satellites See Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt… Right On Time”

Figure 1. Alarmists gone wild at CCNY.

I guess Professor Tedesco missed this…

“Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time,” says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data.

How can an ice sheet surface melt be both “unprecedented” and “right on time”?

It can’t. However, nothing is impossible when you combine govt bureaucrats and the junk science of anthropogenic global warming…

Figure 2. NASA sees “unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet surface melt… right on time”

Satellites See Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt


For several days this month, Greenland’s surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its two-mile-thick center, experienced some degree of melting at its surface, according to measurements from three independent satellites analyzed by NASA and university scientists.


“Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time,” says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data. “But if we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome.”


Not A Science Agency

Summit Station’s summer peak temperatures flirted with 0°C for a few hours ain late July.

Figure 3. Summit Station Greenland Weather. http://www.summitcamp.org/status/weather/index?period=month

Hence the somewhat unusual wide-spread, right-on-time melt.

This melt shows up very clearly in the Greenland Ice Sheet Albedo…

Figure 4. Greenland ice sheet albedo 2500-3200m elevations (meltfactor.org)

The “normal” summer melt season albedo minimum at 2500-3200m is in the range of 0.79-0.82. This year, it briefly dropped to just below 0.74.

Figure 5. Albedo (Wikipedia)

“Normal” is based on 12 years of data. The GRACE measurements upon which the accelerating ice loss claims are based are heavily dependent on the Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA). While not as large as Antarctica (where the GIA’s margin of error is nearly as large as the asserted ice loss), GIA variations can result in totally different ice loss values… And the GRACE time series isn’t any longer than the MODIS time series.

Wu et al., 2010 determined that the GIA commonly assumed for Greenland was way too high and that the 2002-2008 ice loss rate was 104 Gt/yr rather than the oft cited 230 Gt/yr. Even at 230 Gt/yr, it would take 1,000 years for Greenland to lose 5% of its ice mass.

Riva et al., 2007 concluded that the ice mass-loss rate in Antarctica from 2002-2007 could have been anywhere from zero-point-zero Gt/yr up to 120 Gt/yr. Dr. Riva recently co-authored a paper in GRL (Thomas et al., 2011) which concluded that GPS observations suggest “that modeled or empirical GIA uplift signals are often over-estimated” and that “the spatial pattern of secular ice mass change derived from Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) data and GIA models may be unreliable, and that several recent secular Antarctic ice mass loss estimates are systematically biased, mainly too high.”

So… We have barely a decade’s worth of data and no idea if the modern melt rates and albedo changes are anomalous relative to the early 20th century Arctic warming, Medieval Warm Period or any of the other millennial-scale Holocene warming periods.

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that unless some alarmist can tell me what the albedo was in 1899, 1127, 1143 and 1939, during the vast majority of the Holocene or during the Sangamonian, my response is, “Very interesting. Now, move along, there’s nothing more to see here.”

Figure 7. Late Pleistocene-Holocene temperature reconstruction for Central Greenland.
(After Alley, 2000)

Figure 8. North Greenland temperature reconstruction since Late Sangamonian.

Manhattan-sized Icebergs!!!

Figure 9. “Manhattan Transfer”

Manhattan-sized Icebergs are insignificant relative to Greenland-sized ice sheets.

  • Manhattan: 34 square miles.
  • Greenland ice sheet: 660,235 square miles.

Manhattan = 0.005% of Greenland ice sheet. 99.995% of the Greenland ice sheet did not participate in this event.

If one Manhattan-sized chunk of ice calved into the ocean every year and there was no snow accumulation in Greenland for 1,000 years, Greenland would lose 5% of its ice sheet.

A little perspective on Manhattan-sized chunks of ice…

Figure 10. Manhattan-sized chunks of ice are insignificant compared to Petermann Glacier, much less the Greenland ice sheet.
(Wikipedia and Google Earth)

The yellow trapezoid in the middle of the red circle is “Manhattan.” Massive calving events from the Petermann Glacier are not unusual… “Whether the massive calving in 2010 represents natural episodic variability or a response to global and/or ocean warming in the fjord remains speculative…” (Johannessen et al., 2011).  Petermann Glacier isn’t even calving from the glacial terminus. It’s actually calving from the ice shelf in the northern outlet of Baffin Bay.

Figure 11. Jakobshavn Isbrae.

This is a Google Earth photo of Jakobshavn Isbrae, Greenland’s largest outlet glacier…The red lines represent the calving front’s retreat from 1851-1942.If the calving front retreated almost 20 km over that 90-yr period and Greenland’s ice sheet is supposedly vanishing (according to the Warmists), why does the Google Earth image show so much ice downstream of the calving front?

Surely if Jakobshavn Isbrae’s calving front retreated by nearly 20 km before SUV’s, it must have retreated much more than 20 km farther upstream that the 1942 front by now… Right?

Figure 12. Jakobshavn Isbrae.

It appears to have only retreated by a bit more than 10 km since 1942… But, why is there still so much ice downstream of the calving front? If the Greenland ice sheet is disappearing, surely that must be open ocean… erm… open fjord by now… Right?

All that moving around of the calving front and all that lack of disappearing ice might lead someone to think that glaciers are rather dynamic…

Jakobshavn Isbrae – Greenland Glacier Has Always Changed With The Climate

By News Staff | July 16th 2011

New research on Jakobshavn Isbrae, a tongue of ice extending out to sea from Greenland’s west coast, shows that large, marine-calving glaciers don’t just shrink rapidly in response to global warming, they also grow at a remarkable pace during periods of global cooling. *Glaciers change.


Jakobshavn Isbrae has been the focus of intense scientific interest because it is one of the world’s fastest-flowing glaciers, releasing enormous quantities of Greenland’s ice into the ocean. It is believed that changes in the rate at which icebergs calve off from the glacier could influence global sea level rise. The decline of Jakobshavn Isbrae between 1850 and 2010 has been documented, mostly recently through aerial photographs and satellite photographs.

“We know that Jakobshavn Isbrae has retreated at this incredible rate in recent years, and our study suggests that it advanced that fast, also,” said Jason Briner, the associate professor of geology at the University of Buffalo, who led the research. “Our results support growing evidence that calving glaciers are particularly sensitive to climate change.”


Science 2.0


Figure 13. Jakobshavn Isbrae.
(Wikipedia and Google Earth)

“Our results support growing evidence that calving glaciers are particularly sensitive to climate change.”Greenland’s climate is always changing… Always has and always will change… And the climate changes observed over the last few decades are not unprecedented.  The Greenland ice sheet is no more disappearing this year than it was last year and it is physically impossible for the ice sheet to “collapse” into the ocean.

Each and every [fill-in-the-blank]-sized iceberg to calve off Greenland or Antarctica triggers the same alarmist nonsense and glacial junk science journalism. Glaciers are rivers of ice. They flow downhill. When downhill is toward the ocean, they calve icebergs. Increased calving of icebergs is indicative of excess ice accumulation, not melting. Past glacial stages and stadials are associated with an increase in dropstones in marine sediment cores because icebergs calve more frequently when the source of ice is expanding. 

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