Blog Archive

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Animation depicting the spread of ice loss into northwest Greenland observed by GRACE from 2003 through 2009, by John Wahr

The animation below, produced by CU-Boulder's Wahr, depicts the spread of ice loss into northwest Greenland observed by GRACE from 2003 through 2009. The shift in the color spectrum beginning with turquoise and ending in black over the seven-year time span shows the decreasing mass of ice relative to 2003. Courtesy John Wahr, University of Colorado.

To view animations of the GRACE mission, visit:


“Spread of ice mass loss into northwest Greenland observed by GRACE and GPS”


Shfaqat Abbas Khan: DTU Space, Department of Geodesy, National Space Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark;
John Wahr: Department of Physics and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA;
Michael Bevis and Eric Kendrick: School of Earth Sciences, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA;
Isabella Velicogna: Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, California, USA; and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA.

Contact information for co-authors

Shfaqat Abbas Khan, Tel. +45 61 10 80 98, Email:
Isabella Velicogna, Tel. +1 (949) 824-5419, Email:
John Wahr, Tel. +1 (303) 492-8349, Email:


Anonymous said...

The animation shows that major melting began around 2006 in East-central Greenland, and then accellerated and spread like fire in dry grass in north-west direction.


I am right?

Tenney Naumer said...

Since the AGU Fall meeting, this seems to be the first time something has been published on the mass balance loss after July 2009 (those data did not include the horrific melting of August and 2009).

To view the animation properly, put it into full screen mode, then click on the pause button to stop it and really see the action because the animation is too fast.

I only just now watched the animation due to your question because I had watched the extraordinary melting nearly every day last year via the MODIS Rapidfire satellite images.

If you just look at the topography of the margins of Greenland, you will see with quite a shock that the whole thing has been worn down over the millions of years by ice moving out, and the edges are just perfect ice chutes. It's made to let it all go.

Hellheim is so damned big and last year it was covered with meltwater lakes, as was the Petermann. These babies are in the far north.

The two months of high pressure (i.e., hotter air) that sat above Greenland this January and February have really primed the whole western side for extreme melt this summer.

Global mean temperatures at nearly all altitudes have spiked sharply this year.

None of this bodes well for the GrIS.

Anonymous said...

What is specially surprising os that accellerated melting continued unabated even during the WINTER MONTHS!


Tenney Naumer said...

Yes, it is, and also the fact that the mainstream media has not picked up on this incredible melt.

It was possible to see the continued outflow of the meltwater (which contains a ton of ground of dirt or rock) via the composite satellite photos on the Danish website, and also via the temperature graphics (no longer available -- it seems that satellite has gone offline). You could see when there was a large pulse for hundreds of miles along the western coast via the surface water temperature changes. It was astonishing, and I am very surprised that I have not seen any research published about this.

Here, you can see the composite image at this link -- it updates daily. Pieces (swaths of coverage) are updated about every 3 days.

susan said...

OK, here's from the peanut gallery, always learning and often mistaken. I think it's time to consider water vapor production in the context of this extreme melt. If melting is unusual, evaporation is the other escape valve for warm ice. I suspect you are well aware of this, but it just broke in on my thoughts.

(WV, yeah I know, but this one?!

Tenney Naumer said...

The satellite data for temperature for 2010 show a huge spike for all of 2010, so far, but amazingly, the warming is occurring at all altitudes, from 14,000 to 115,000 feet. This is just mind-boggling.

What this means is that the amount of water vapor will increase at all altitudes, most likely, and this will cause weather changes that no one can predict.

The continuous very strong westward flow of air at the mid latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere is preventing some of the circulation that normally occurs near the Equator. That circulation goes from east to west. For example, hot air from the India Ocean flows across
Africa, then across the Atlantic from western Africa towards the north coast of South America, eventually crossed into the eastern Pacific.

But this flow is being partially impeded by the western flows coming across from the western Pacific.

Thus, the heat energy is bunching up off Africa, causing sea-surface temperatures to rise.

This may have been the reason for the incredible sea level rise all along the coast of northern Brazil in February and early March.