Greenland ice not responding as predicted

Figure 7 from Interannual variability of Greenland ice losses from satellite gravimetry

From C3 Headlines and The Hockey Schtick word that the whole Greenland ice loss issue and Atlasgate just got more complex. As a whole Greenland is not responding the same, which suggests regional weather variability as a cause.

From C3 Headlines:

The IPCC’s climate models and its Climategate experts have long predicted that Greenland would lose ice mass due to CO2-induced global warming. Although satellites confirm that Greenland’s glaciers in total have dumped massive amounts of ice into surrounding seas during recent years, these same satellites also confirm that generic global warming is probably not the cause.

In actuality, if Greenland was a casualty of unprecedented global warming, then its glaciers would be losing huge ice mass in unison, as predicted by the IPCC. Instead, as the new Chen et al. study finds, there is huge variability of ice loss among Greenland’s glaciers, which can’t be explained by AGW.

For example, using the advanced technology of the GRACE satellites, scientists determined over the most recent years that:

  1. Greenland’s northwestern glaciers’ ice loss increased by: 100Gt/yr
  2. Greenland’s southeastern glaciers’ ice loss decreased by: 109Gt/yr

This study’s scientists suggest that the gigantic variability (that wasn’t predicted) is likely to be a function of regional climate/weather conditions resulting from normal interannual variability.

From The Hockey Schtick

A paper published…in the Journal of Geophysical Research finds “the loss rate in southeast Greenland for the more recent period has become almost negligible, down from 109 ± 28 Gt/yr of just a few years ago. The rapid change in the nature of the regional ice mass in southeast and northwest Greenland, in the course of only several years, further reinforces the idea that the Greenland ice sheet mass balance is very vulnerable to regional climate conditions.”  Global warming allegedly due to greenhouse gases would not be expected to cause such regional interannual variability in Greenland ice loss, thus pointing to shifts in weather instead.” [J. L. Chen, C. R. Wilson, B. D. Tapley 2011: Journal of Geophysical Research]

JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 116, B07406, 11 PP., 2011

Interannual variability of Greenland ice losses from satellite gravimetry

Key Points:

This study shows dramatic slow down of ice loss in southeast Greenland
Glaciers in northwest Greenland dominate the ice loss since 2007
Greenland ice mass shows significant interannual variability

J. L. Chen et al

Using extended satellite gravity measurements from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), here we show that ice losses in southeast Greenland appear to have slowed down dramatically since late 2007, while those in the west, especially northwest Greenland show continued accelerations in recent years. Over the period April 2002 to November 2009, averaged ice loss rates in eastern Greenland (120 ± 31 Gt/yr) are still significantly larger than those in the west (86.3 ± 22 Gt/yr). However, the estimated ice loss rate from glaciers in northwest Greenland has increased from 30.9 ± 8 Gt/yr over the first few years (2002–2005) to 128.2 ± 33 Gt/yr for the more recent period (2007–2009), while the loss rate in southeast Greenland for the more recent period has become almost negligible, down from 109 ± 28 Gt/yr of just a few years ago. The rapid change in the nature of the regional ice mass in southeast and northwest Greenland, in the course of only several years, further reinforces the idea that the Greenland ice sheet mass balance is very vulnerable to regional climate conditions. The dramatic slow down of ice loss in southeast Greenland observed by GRACE provides an independent verification of similar reports from other remote sensing data. The observed significant interannual variability of Greenland ice mass change suggests that it is very challenging to quantify Greenland’s long-term ice mass change rates, and some observed apparent accelerations might simply be a reflection of the interannual variability.

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41 Responses to Greenland ice not responding as predicted

  1. Latitude says:

    uh oh…..that’s really going to mess up the Time’s atlas
    They picked the wrong end…………

  2. Mike says:

    The unevenness of Greenland’s ice loss is not new. I don’t think anyone predicted it would be a uniform process. GHG caused climate change is modulated by natural and other human changes.

    You might find this of interest:

    Arctic sea ice is melting far faster than climate models predict. Why?
    Sep 24th 2011

    http://www.economist.com/node/21530079

  3. Jeff says:

    I know nothing about glaciers, however my intuition would lead me to believe that glaciers shed a lot of ice because the glacier is being produced upstream with a lot of new snow … no snow, reduced ice production and less ice shedding. This seems antithetical to the idea that glaciers shed lots of ice because of just temps. Some commentary for us laymen who are interested in understanding the science would be helpful.

  4. Mike Smith says:

    I reckon those pesky polar bears have been carrying the ice from south to north.

    It’s always the damn polar bears, every time.

  5. Richard Telford says:

    “if Greenland was a casualty of unprecedented global warming, then its glaciers would be losing huge ice mass in unison, as predicted by the IPCC.”
    In which chapter was this predicted?

  6. Schitzree says:

    I’m not sure I understand the scale on the left side of those graphs. What does 0 cm of water thickness relate to? Both graphs start out in 2002 at about 30 or 20 respectively, hit 0 near the start of 2006 and continue to drop to -20 or -40 respectively by 2010. Does this mean the glaciers were growing before 2006? That doesn’t make sense. But if this was how much water was being lost then the glaciers have been growing since 2006. Or did they just take the 2006 rate and declared it the ‘average’?

  7. simpleseekeraftertruth says:

    Antarctic ice fine, Arctic ice fine, sea-level fine, tropical storms fine, snow not a thing-of-the-past, heat from AGW still not found, glaciers not retreating, thermometer records found compromised.

    Climatologists 0, WUWT 8. (Or did I doze off in a quieter moment and miss something?)

  8. Nuke Nemesis says:

    Too little melting, too much melting, not melting according to the expected pattern — if any of these are true, then the climate models are wrong.

  9. Anything is possible says:

    Next question :

    How do Phil and Kev keep this peer reviewed paper out of AR5?

  10. James Sexton says:

    Latitude says:
    September 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    uh oh…..that’s really going to mess up the Time’s atlas
    They picked the wrong end…………
    ===============================================

    to talk out of. (Thought I’d help you finish) :-)

  11. Sensor operator says:

    This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. One of the sources of deep ocean water (cold, higher density/saltier) occurs right by southeast Greenland during the winter. As a minor lesson (due to what I saw in a prior story), as ocean water gets colder and denser, the surface can get cold enough to freeze the water , but only the water. While some salt (not NaCl) can get frozen in the ice water (H2O) matrix, it is not frozen sea water. The majority of the salt remains in the liquid sea water making it saltier and densier. Sometimes, there will be times with increased melting/less freezing (as seen in 2007). And also times of increased freezing (early part of 2009). And while for a time (~ 2 years from 2007 to 2009) there appears to be an increase in mass, the overall trend from the beginning of the data indicates a long term trend of mass loss, i.e. melting ice sheets on Greenland.

    One could generate a similar value at the very beginning of the data record if a shorter time frame were selected for the bright green line in the plot.

    One problem I see in the paper is a comment where they state “…The dramatic slow down of ice loss in southeast Greenland …”. If you look at the data at the beginning of the time sereis, there are similar trends. Apparently, for that region of Greenland, right near the location of deep water formation, you have much larger variations than in northern Greenland which is surrounded by ice almost year round (even during the melts).

    Yet even though the northwest region has ice around it, the mass is decreasing, i.e. the Greenland ice sheet is melting.

  12. Rosco says:

    Why does the Greenland ice loss have an error of about 25% but the scientists that manipulate the temperature record from thousands of differing sources over the whole Earth claim to be able to state with authority that there has been a temperature increase of 0.8 C over ~130 years ?

  13. Del says:

    If this disproves AGW wouldn’t it also disprove GW which I don’t believe many disagree?

  14. Latitude says:

    In actuality, if Greenland was a casualty of unprecedented global warming
    ==========================================================
    They can stop right there…..
    ..get back to me when they stop finding houses, farms, knifes, forks, and dinner plates under the ice

  15. Ben Kellett says:

    Slightly OT but I must admit to being a bit disapointed this year not to see a bit of a recovery of arctic sea ice. This hasn’t happened despite the fact that conditions were much more favourable than those of 2007. Joe Bastardi et al were very confident also of a recovery this year and I’m keen to understand his and others’ views on why it didn’t happen. I guess at least in part, this may have been due to the slow freeze last winter, thus giving less time for greater volume to build up. An early freeze like that of Autumn 2008 is what is now required if the artic is to avoid flimsy cover next spring.

  16. Billy Liar says:

    I believe this is the result of over-reliance on remote sensing. I don’t think remote sensing of sea level, gravity or temperature is as reliable or accurate as people would like to think it is. Ice melts, snow accumulates, water moves, land moves, clouds move; what’s a satellite to do?

    I have no evidence for this but like everything in climate it appears that the noise totally drowns the signal (no pun intended!). Deriving an accurate signal is very, very tricky.

    I await the numerous posts telling me how simple it all is really.

  17. Phil R says:

    Latitude says:
    September 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    uh oh…..that’s really going to mess up the Time’s atlas
    They picked the wrong end…………

    ROTFLMAO. if there was a way to give updings, you’d get all of mine. I’d like to say that you owe me a new keyboard, but fortunately I wasn’t drinking anything at the time.

  18. Doug Proctor says:

    The Greenland ice mass is still, visually, a lot. But prior to 2002, what was it? Prior to 1979, what was it?

    The last 10 years of ice loss play into the warmist hands as there is no pre-CAGW data on the graph to show if it is CAGW or normal processes that we are seeing.

    Nice job, here’s another grant.

  19. Ric Werme says:

    The rapid change in the nature of the regional ice mass in southeast and northwest Greenland, in the course of only several years, further reinforces the idea that the Greenland ice sheet mass balance is very vulnerable to regional climate conditions.”

    How can they say that? It seems to me it suggests several years or decades (or 30 years!) of study is required before they can talk about “vulnerability.”

  20. Crispin in Waterloo says:

    Mike says:
    “Arctic sea ice is melting far faster than climate models predict. Why?”

    ++++++

    Because it is caused by weather, not global warming.

    Read the article, Mike.

  21. stevo says:

    “In actuality, if Greenland was a casualty of unprecedented global warming, then its glaciers would be losing huge ice mass in unison, as predicted by the IPCC”

    There is no such expectation or prediction. As so very often, you seem to think that if any factor besides rising CO2 can be found, then rising CO2 must therefore not be a factor. In the real world, several things can each be causes of something, without being mutually exclusive. Of course regional effects are important. Of course that doesn’t mean that global warming is not happening.

  22. Mike says:

    @Chris,

    Do read the article Chris: http://www.economist.com/node/21530079

    It says “That Arctic sea ice is disappearing has been known for decades. The underlying cause is believed by all but a handful of climatologists to be global warming brought about by greenhouse-gas emissions. Yet the rate the ice is vanishing confounds these climatologists’ models. ”

    The main hypothesis discussed in the article to account for the even faster than expected melting is black soot not weather variations. This similar to the finding that increased SO2 emissions, both natural and man made, may have stalled the increase in global average surface temps.

  23. BA says:

    Crispin in Waterloo says:
    September 22, 2011 at 6:19 pm
    Mike says:
    “Arctic sea ice is melting far faster than climate models predict. Why?”
    ++++++
    Because it is caused by weather, not global warming.
    Read the article, Mike.

    Crispin, did you read the article? Where did Chen tell you that Arctic sea ice is melting due to weather?

  24. RoHa says:

    But my brand new atlas shows that huge areas of south-east Greenland are now banana plantations.

  25. Richard Telford says:

    Latitude says:
    September 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    They can stop right there…..
    ..get back to me when they stop finding houses, farms, knifes, forks, and dinner plates under the ice
    —————————-
    Where is this happening, except your imagination? Perhaps you are confusing sand with ice – there is a well know Viking site called Gården under Sandet buried under alluvial sands.

  26. izen says:

    This seems to be the ‘curate’s egg’ response to cognitive dissonance.

    Greenland is losing ice all over because of AGW.
    But its not at an equal rate over the whole area (why would it be?!) so SOME bits are ‘better’ than others…..

  27. Juraj V. says:

    AFAIK, GRACE results have been revised down recently by half.

  28. John Wootton says:

    Considering the Times Atlas controversy and this post – have a look at this temperature trend link:

    http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=Greenland+TEMPERATURE

    Intersting is it not?

  29. John Marshall says:

    One reason for glaciers to accelerate is a greater ice mass upstream due to a greater rate of precipitation.

  30. KnR says:

    Wanted New Editor for the Geophysical Research journal
    Must have experience of knowing their place in the ‘Team ‘ , and an ability to show a lack of independence of thought is essentially.
    Please apply care of RealClimate

  31. richard verney says:

    I am sceptical of the the accuracy of satellites to measure very small changes in height/level. Not only because of tectonic movement but also because of orbital decay coupled with other measurement limitations. I have made this point many times with respect to lea level measurements which are of course more difficult given that the water has a constantly moving surface.

  32. richard telford says:

    richard verney says:
    September 23, 2011 at 3:25 am
    I am sceptical of the the accuracy of satellites to measure very small changes in height/level. Not only because of tectonic movement but also because of orbital decay coupled with other measurement limitations.
    ————-
    Uncertainties caused by land-uplift (which is fairly well constrained) could cause errors in the mean rate of ice gain/loss, but cannot cause the changes in the ice gain/loss as the mantel flow driving landuplift does not vary on sub-decadal timescales. If orbital decay caused problems, then other regions, known to be stable, would also show changes in their gravity field.

  33. UK John says:

    Mike wants me to read the Economist. So I did. My comment!

    The Economist hypothesis is just as valid than any other un-evidenced speculation or opinion, there is loads of un-evidenced speculation and opinion about, take your pick.

  34. IanG says:

    Richard Telford says:

    September 22, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    Latitude says:
    September 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    They can stop right there…..
    ..get back to me when they stop finding houses, farms, knifes, forks, and dinner plates under the ice
    —————————-
    Where is this happening, except your imagination? Perhaps you are confusing sand with ice – there is a well know Viking site called Gården under Sandet buried under alluvial sands.

    ——————————————

    Richard,

    Don’t need to go as far back as medieval Greenland. P38 Lightning lost in 1942 dug up from below 300 feet of ice and snow in 1992. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6232954.stm

    At that rate of melting it’s a wonder there is any water left in the oceans \sarc

    Ian

  35. Richard Telford says:

    IanG says:
    September 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Don’t need to go as far back as medieval Greenland. P38 Lightning lost in 1942 dug up from below 300 feet of ice and snow in 1992. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6232954.stm
    ———————–
    Aircraft lands in accumulation zone of an ice sheet. Gets buried under accumulating snow. Wow that was a surprise.

  36. Ian L. McQueen says:

    From the Economist article: “In August a Russian supertanker, the Vladimir Tokohonov, aided by two nuclear icebreakers, became the first such vessel to cross the north-east route (or, as Russians refer to it, the northern sea route), hugging the Siberian coast.”

    I thought that the NE passage has been in regular use and allowed ships to move back and forth between Atlantic and Pacific. The Russian fleet that was destroyed by the Japanese in 1905 was just arriving from the Atlantic, was it not? (Battle of Tsushima, if I recall my history lessons from 1957.)
    IanM

    [Reply: no, you're not wrong about the history. The key phrase in this article is "the first such vessel". -REP, mod]

  37. onion2 says:

    It looks to me that this article is spinning the science to support a result the science doesn’t actually back.

    There is no reason to expect ice loss would be identical across the whole of greenland in a warming world on a timescale of a few years. Claiming that this is somehow at odds with AGW is disturbing spin.

  38. Garry says:

    Looks like the NY Times had this covered in 1934, well before the rise of the Cult of Demon CO2.

    Actually if you search the NYT historic archives back to 1850 there are dozens of similar articles about climate. Amazingly they seem to have a much less frantic and more commonsense view of climate and weather than the hysterical hissy-fits that we see from today’s media and climate “scientists.”

    ————————————
    Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES
    May 30, 1947,
    Warming Arctic Climate Melting Glaciers Faster, Raising Ocean Level, Scientist Says
    By GLADWIN HILL
    Page 23, Column , words
    LOS ANGELES, May 29 — A mysterious warming of the climate is slowly manifesting itself in the Arctic, engendering a “serious international problem,” Dr. Hans Ahlmann, noted Swedish geophysicist, said today.
    ————————————
    January 28, 1934,
    THE WEEK IN SCIENCE: OUR MELTING NORTH; New Evidence Supports Geology’s View That the Arctic Is Growing Warmer
    By WALDEMAR KAEMPFFERT. ();
    Section SPECIAL FEATURES EDUCATION-SCIENCE, Page XX7, Column , words
    TWO pieces of evidence were recently presented to substantiate the views held by most geologists that some day there will be no frozen North and that vessels will sail in Arctic seas now imperilled by ice floes. One piece of evidence comes from Greenland, the other from Alaska.

  39. Mike says:

    @Garry

    Natural past Arctic warming events are known. The current extent, magnitude and pace of Arctic warming however is apparently unprecedented in 8,000 years, and unlike the events you mention is concurrent with global warming. GHG warming may not be the only factor, but it is a major factor in Arctic warming.

  40. Brian H says:

    The record of AGW “predictions” (=projections, WAGs, etc.) is probably worse than chance. Any hits are pure random coincidence. So surprise is warranted when they get something right, not the converse.

  41. Richard Telford says:

    Brian H says:
    September 25, 2011 at 1:51 am
    —————
    The prediction falsified here is a strawman – a figment of our host’s imagination. There is no IPCC prediction that Greenland should melt evenly in time and space.

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