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Waleed Abdalati and Konrad Steffen

Abstract

The melt extent of the snow on the Greenland ice sheet is of considerable importance to the ice sheet’s mass and energy balance, as well as Arctic and global climates. By comparing passive microwave satellite data to field observations, variations in melt extent have been detected by establishing melt thresholds in the cross-polarized gradient ratio (XPGR). The XPGR, defined as the normalized difference between the 19-GHz horizontal channel and the 37-GHz vertical channel of the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I), exploits the different effects of snow wetness on different frequencies and polarizations and establishes a distinct melt signal. Using this XPGR melt signal, seasonal and interannual variations in snowmelt extent of the ice sheet are studied. The melt is found to be most extensive on the western side of the ice sheet and peaks in late July. Moreover, there is a notable increasing trend in melt area between the years 1979 and 1991 of 4.4% per year, which came to an abrupt halt in 1992 after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. A similar trend is observed in the temperatures at six coastal stations. The relationship between the warming trend and increasing melt trend between 1979 and 1991 suggests that a 1°C temperature rise corresponds to an increase in melt area of 73 000 km2, which in general exceeds one standard deviation of the natural melt area variability.

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Konrad Steffen and Ted deMaria

Abstract

The surface energy balance of sea ice was measured during degree one-week periods in November, January, and February of 1980–81 in the Barrow Strait, Northwest Territories, Canada. Turbulent fluxes were derived with the bulk aerodynamic transfer method, using temperature, dewpoint, and wind speed profile measurements. The conductive heat flux was balanced by the sensible and latent heat fluxes, and by the radiative fluxes for all three measuring periods. In November, when there was a mean ice thickness of 0.32 m, approximately 80%, ±6% of the conductive heat flux (− 129 W m−2) was dissipated by the sensible heat flux (108 W m−2), approximately 20% ± 8% of the energy was lost by longwave radiation (30 W m−2), and the latent heat flux (6 W m−2) accounted for 4% of the total surface energy balance. Ice growth rates could be predicted for young ice with an accuracy of 10%, based on conductive flux measurements. Brine-wetted snow on sea ice increased the conductive heat flux to two Lorries that of pure snow. In January, when there was a mean ice thickness of 0.92 m, approximately 50% ± 9% of the conductive heat flux (−50 W m−2) was dissipated by sensible heat flux (26 W m−2), approximately 50% ± 9% was dissipated by radiative cooling (27 W m−2), and the latent heat flux had a mean value of 0 W m−2. Variations in the surface energy balance tend to be related to synoptic events, such as the horizontal advection of warm air and the increased cloudiness of transient eddies. In February, the mean conductive heat flux was −36 ± 4 W m−2, which was balanced by the radiative flux of 32 ± 2.5 W m−2 (80% ± 8%) and by the sensible flux of 10 W m−2 (20% ± 6%). Again, large-scale synoptic events dominated the surface energy balance. On a weekly basis, the mean surface energy balance residuals were within the predicted uncertainties, based on instrument resolution.

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Julienne Stroeve and Konrad Steffen

Abstract

The Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer is used to derive surface temperatures for one satellite pass under clear skies over the Greenland ice sheet from 1989 through 1993. The results of these temperatures are presented as monthly means, and their spatial and temporal variability are discussed. Accuracy of the dry snow surface temperatures is estimated to be better than 1 K during summer. This error is expected to increase during polar night due to problems in cloud identification. Results indicate the surface temperature of the Greenland ice sheet is strongly dominated by topography, with minimum surface temperatures associated with the high elevation regions. In the summer, maximum surface temperatures occur during July along the western coast and southern tip of the ice sheet. Minimum temperatures are found at the summit during summer and move farther north during polar night. Large interannual variability in surface temperatures occurs during winter associated with katabatic storm events. Summer temperatures show little variation, although 1992 stands out as being colder than the other years. The reason for the lower temperatures during 1992 is believed to be a result of the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo.

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Julienne Stroeve, Marcel Haefliger, and Konrad Steffen

Abstract

The relationship between Along Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR) thermal radiances and snow surface temperature for the Greenland ice sheet is examined through forward calculations of the LOWTRAN 7 radiative transfer model. Inputs to the model include in situ radiosonde profile measurements of temperature, pressure and humidity, surface temperatures, and cloud observations for spring-summer 1990 and 1991 from the ETH-CU research camp, located at 69°34′N, 49°18′W on the Greenland ice sheet. Atmospheric correction coefficients were determined through a statistical analysis of daily clear-sky profiles for three different combinations of the ATSR thermal infrared (TIR) channels. Using all available ATSR TIR information, the 11- and 12-μm channels in both the nadir and forward views showed the smallest rms error of less than 0.2 K in the estimated surface temperature. This dual-view algorithm was found to be least sensitive to changes in concentrations of atmospheric constituents, in contrast to the standard “split-window” technique. Assuming accurate surface emissivities can be obtained, the dual-view algorithm is recommended for applications in polar regions where the variety of atmospheric conditions can be large.

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Joseph G. Alfieri, Peter D. Blanken, David N. Yates, and Konrad Steffen

Abstract

Nearly one-half of the earth’s terrestrial surface is susceptible to drought, which can have significant social, economic, and environmental impacts. Therefore, it is important to develop better descriptions and models of the processes linking the land surface and atmosphere during drought. Using data collected during the International H2O Project, the study presented here investigates the effects of variations in the environmental factors driving the latent heat flux (λE) during drought conditions at a rangeland site located in the panhandle of Oklahoma. Specifically, this study focuses on the relationships of λE with vapor pressure deficit, wind speed, net radiation, soil moisture content, and greenness fraction. While each of these environmental factors has an influence, soil moisture content is the key control on λE. The role of soil moisture in regulating λE is explained in terms of the surface resistance to water vapor transfer. The results show that λE transitioned between being water or energy limited during the course of the drought. The implications of this on the ability to understand and model drought conditions and transitions into or out of droughts are discussed.

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Sebastian H. Mernild, Glen E. Liston, Christopher A. Hiemstra, and Konrad Steffen

Abstract

SnowModel, a physically based snow-evolution modeling system that includes four submodels—MicroMet, EnBal, SnowPack, and SnowTran-3D—was used to simulate variations in Greenland [including the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS)] surface snow and ice melt, as well as water balance components, for 1995–2005. Meteorological observations from 25 stations inside and outside the GrIS were used as model input. Winter and summer mass balance observations, spatial snow depth observations, and snowmelt depletion curves derived from time-lapse photography from the Mittivakkat and Zackenberg glacierized catchments in East Greenland were used to validate the performance of SnowModel. Model results compared well with observed values, confirming the robustness of the model. The yearly modeled GrIS interior nonmelt area differs from satellite observations by a maximum of ∼68 000 km2 (or ∼6%) in 2004, and the lowest uncertainties (<8000 km2, or <1%) occur for the years with the smallest (2005) and most extensive (1996) nonmelt areas. Modeled surface melt occurred at elevations reaching 2950 m MSL for 2005, while the equilibrium line altitude (ELA) fluctuates from 1640 to 600 m MSL. The modeled interannual variability in the nonmelt area also agrees with observation records (R 2 = 0.96), yielding simulated GrIS nonmelt covers of 71% for 1996 and 50% for 2005. On average, the simulated nonmelt area decreased ∼6% from 1995 to 2005; this trend is similar to observed values. An average surface mass balance (SMB) storage of 138(±81) km3 yr−1, a GrIS loss of 257(±81) km3 yr−1, and a runoff contribution to the ocean of 392(±58) km3 yr−1 occurred for the period 1995–2005. Approximately 58% and 42% of the runoff came from the GrIS western and eastern drainage areas, respectively. The modeled average specific runoff from the GrIS was 6.71 s−1 km−2 yr−1, which, over the simulation period, represents a contribution of ∼1.1 mm yr−1 to global sea level rise.

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Mark C. Serreze, Jeffrey R. Key, Jason E. Box, James A. Maslanik, and Konrad Steffen

Abstract

Measurements from the Russian “North Pole” series of drifting stations, the United States drifting stations“T-3” and “Arlis II,” land stations, and, where necessary, over the northern North Atlantic and coastal Greenland, empirically derived values from earlier Russian studies are used to compile a new gridded monthly climatology of global (downwelling shortwave) radiation for the region north of 65°N. Spatio-temporal patterns of fluxes and effective cloud transmittance are examined and comparisons are made with fields from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction–National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP–NCAR) reanalysis and those derived from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) C2 (monthly) cloud product.

All months examined (March–October) show peak fluxes over the Greenland ice sheet. March, September, and October feature a strong zonal component. Other months exhibit an asymmetric pattern related to cloud fraction and optical depth, manifested by an Atlantic side flux minimum. For June, the month of maximum insolation, fluxes increase from less than 200 W m−2 in the Norwegian and Barents seas to more than 300 W m−2 over the Pacific side of central Arctic Ocean extending into the Beaufort Sea. June fluxes of more than 340 W m−2 are found over the Greenland ice sheet. Effective cloud transmittance, taken as the ratio of the observed flux to the modeled clear sky flux, is examined for April–September. Values for the Atlantic sector range from 0.50–0.60, contrasting with the central Arctic Ocean where values peak in April at 0.75–0.80, falling to 0.60–0.65 during late summer and early autumn. A relative Beaufort Sea maximum is well expressed during June. The NCEP–NCAR and ISCCP products capture 50%–60% of the observed spatial variance in global radiation during most months. However, the NCEP–NCAR fluxes are consistently high, with Arctic Ocean errors in excess of 60 W m−2 during summer, reflecting problems in modeled cloud cover. ISCCP fluxes compare better in terms of magnitude.

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Christopher A. Shuman, Konrad Steffen, Jason E. Box, and Charles R. Stearns

Abstract

On 4 May 1987, the first automatic weather station (AWS) near the summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet began transmitting data. Air temperature records from this site, AWS Cathy, as well as nearby AWS at the Greenland Ice Sheet Project II (GISP2, now Summit) camp have been combined with Special Sensor Microwave Imager brightness temperature data to create a composite temperature history of the Greenland summit. This decadal-plus-length (4536 days) record covers the period from May 1987 to October 1999 and continues currently. The record is derived primarily from near-surface temperature data from AWS Cathy (May 1987–May 1989), AWS GISP2 (June 1989–November 1996), and AWS Summit (May 1996 and continuing). Despite the 35-km distance between them, the AWS Cathy data have been converted to the equivalent basis of temperatures from the AWS GISP2 and AWS Summit locations. The now completed “Summit” temperature time series represents a unique record that documents a multiyear temperature recovery after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in June 1991 and that initiates a baseline needed for climate change detection.

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Nathaniel B. Miller, Matthew D. Shupe, Christopher J. Cox, Von P. Walden, David D. Turner, and Konrad Steffen

Abstract

The surface energy budget plays a critical role in determining the mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which in turn has significant implications for global sea levels. Nearly three years of data (January 2011–October 2013) are used to characterize the annual cycle of surface radiative fluxes and cloud radiative forcing (CRF) from the central Greenland Ice Sheet at Summit Station. The annual average CRF is 33 W m−2, representing a substantial net cloud warming of the central Greenland surface. Unlike at other Arctic sites, clouds warm the surface during the summer. The surface albedo is high at Summit throughout the year, limiting the cooling effect of the shortwave CRF and thus the total CRF is dominated by cloud longwave warming effects in all months. All monthly mean CRF values are positive (warming), as are 98.5% of 3-hourly cases. The annual cycle of CRF is largely driven by the occurrence of liquid-bearing clouds, with a minimum in spring and maximum in late summer. Optically thick liquid-bearing clouds [liquid water path (LWP) > 30 g m−2] produce an average longwave CRF of 85 W m−2. Shortwave CRF is sensitive to solar zenith angle and LWP. When the sun is well above the horizon (solar zenith angle < 65°), a maximum cloud surface warming occurs in the presence of optically thin liquid-bearing clouds. Ice clouds occur frequently above Summit and have mean longwave CRF values ranging from 10 to 60 W m−2, dependent on cloud thickness.

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Sebastian H. Mernild, David M. Holland, Denise Holland, Aqqalu Rosing-Asvid, Jacob C. Yde, Glen E. Liston, and Konrad Steffen

Abstract

The distribution of terrestrial surface runoff to Ilulissat Icefjord, west Greenland, is simulated for the period 2009–13 to better emphasize the spatiotemporal variability in freshwater flux and the link between runoff spikes and observed hydrographic conditions at the Greenland Ice Sheet tidewater glacier margins. Runoff model simulations were forced with automatic weather station data and verified against snow water equivalent depth, equilibrium line altitude, and quasi-continuous salinity and temperature observations obtained by ringed seals. Instrumented seals provide a novel platform to examine the otherwise inaccessible waters beneath the dense ice mélange within the first 0–10 km of the calving front. The estimated mean freshwater flux from land was 70.6 ± 4.2 km3 yr−1, with an 85% contribution of ice discharge from Jakobshavn Isbrae (also known as Sermeq Kujalleq), 14% from runoff, and the remaining 1% from precipitation on the fjord surface area, subglacial geothermal melting, and frictional melting due to basal ice motion. Runoff was simulated to be present from May to November and to vary spatially according to glacier cover and individual catchment size. Salinity and temperature observations correlate (significantly) with simulated runoff for the upper part of both the main fjord and southern fjord arm. Also, at the tidewater glacier margins in the northern and southern arm of Ilulissat Icefjord, salinity changes in the upper water column (upper 50 m) are significant after temporal spikes in runoff during late summer, while small-amplitude runoff variability during the recession of runoff did not create a clear signal in observed salinity variability. Also, in the southern arm near the glacier margin (between 100- and 150-m depth), the heterogeneous distribution in salinity could be because of the mixing of meltwater going upward from passing the grounding line. The effect of runoff spikes on observed salinity is less pronounced near the ice margin of Jakobshavn Isbrae than in the north and south arms.

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