Greenland Ice Sheet Today

Photograph of a large melt pond on the Greenland Ice Sheet

A large melt pond on the Greenland Ice Sheet, photographed in 2004. Although melt ponds are normal phenomena during the summer melt season, scientists are paying closer attention to their frequency, extent, and duration. Courtesy John Maurer.

As warming alters the Arctic landscape, people are paying more attention to the changes happening to the Greenland Ice Sheet. The ice is melting more rapidly than before, leaving us to wonder, what’s going on?

To help answer your questions about Greenland, NSIDC’s newest Web site, Greenland Ice Sheet Today, will feature the latest research and imagery that researchers are using to monitor the ice. Scientists are discovering that while the ice sheet is in no danger of instantly melting, it is not immune to the Arctic’s rising temperatures.

Greenland in a warming world

Most recently, during the summer of 2012, nearly 97 percent of the ice sheet surface experienced melting. This extreme melt was unprecedented in the 30-year satellite record; typically only about 40 or 50 percent of the ice surface melts. Scientists chalked this dramatic melt to an unusually warm weather pattern that hovered over Greenland for several weeks. But this unusual event preceded a record low Arctic sea ice extent and occurred in conjunction with other signals of warming in the region. Arctic Ocean temperatures have been rising, and the sea ice that normally blankets those oceans in winter is declining. Outlet glaciers that drain the ice sheet are flowing faster and thinning more rapidly than they have before. Large ponds and other melt features are appearing on the ice sheet surface more frequently, and are lasting longer before refreezing. Consequently, scientists are watching Greenland closely.

Warming in context

Data image showing cucmulative Greenland melt days, from January 1 through February 4, 2013

The Greenland melt images are updated daily, with a one-day lag. This Cumulative Melt Days image shows the total number of days that melt occurred, year to date. Areas along the coast are masked out because the satellite sensor’s resolution is not fine enough to distinguish ice from land when a pixel overlaps the coast. Credit: NSIDC/Thomas Mote, University of Georgia

Similar to our Arctic Sea Ice Web site, Greenland Ice Sheet Today will feature daily images based on near-real-time data across Greenland. An accompanying graph will illustrate how the current melt extent compares to the longer-term satellite record. We will update the News and Analysis section regularly with background information to help place current Greenland melt conditions into context. Expert contributors will post regularly to discuss the ongoing status of the ice sheet. Greenland Ice Sheet Today helps round out NSIDC’s series of sites featuring data and analysis to keep you updated about Earth’s cryosphere.

For more information and to view data images, visit Greenland Ice Sheet Today.

Previous Icelights posts about Greenland

What caused last summer’s Greenland surface melt?

Greenland’s glaciers and the Arctic climate

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