Sled dogs dragging through endless water

Steffen M Olsen via Twitter / Danish Meteorological Institute

Just last week, 4 trillion pounds of ice melted off Greenland in a single day. On the same day, a viral image was taken which perfectly captures the current conditions in Greenland, with sled dogs traversing miles of meltwater.

The image was taken by Steffen Olsen, a researcher at the Center for Ocean and Ice at the Danish Meteorological Institute, on June 13, 2019. Olsen was on a sled retrieving oceanographic moorings and equipment from weather stations in the north -west Greenland as it found itself surrounded by a shallow sea of ​​meltwater. As the ice melts and freezes, it seals the cracks and causes the water to stand above the vast expanse of ice.

The photo was taken in Inglefield Fjord in northwest Greenland, which empties into Baffin Bay. Olsen and his team were on sea ice, which Olsen estimates is about 4 feet thick sitting on 2,850 feet of water. The researchers used teams of local hunters to help measure ice thickness from winter through summer.

©Adobe Stock

climate researcher Ruth Mottram added that “the project Steffen is working on is working closely with local hunters in Qaanaaq (many people still live a traditional subsistence lifestyle in this area). They are monitoring sea ice and ocean conditions in Inglefield Bredning, near the village of Qaanaaq and at the DMI, we now have a few years of data on this area.As part of the project, they place instruments on the sea ice that forms in the bay in the winter each year, and then the recover around now in late spring/early summer. before the pack ice breaks up, so as not to lose expensive instruments in the ocean!”

The recent extreme melting in Greenland is attributed to two high pressure systems over Greenland. One of the high-pressure systems is the same system that caused an extreme heat wave in the southeastern United States in late May. The team of climatologists regularly travel to Inglefield Fjord where they measure temperature and melting conditions. However, this year’s melt at the start of the season was unusually high.

The very high pressure over the Azores, combined with the low pressure over Iceland, partly constitutes the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). A positive NAO index means the North Atlantic is likely to experience mild winters and cool summers across Greenland. A negative NAO index probably means cold winters and hot summers.

As you can see in the figure above, the NAO index (small box at bottom left) has been significantly negative over the past two months. This is an indication that Greenland has been experiencing unusually warm conditions given the time of year. This led to significant melting across Greenland. The NAO index and its effects have been recorded for centuries, where people recorded unusually hot conditions in Denmark while Greenland was unusually cold and vice versa. This is the result of the NAO index and the variation of low and high pressure from Greenland to Western Europe.

NSIDC / Thomas Mote, University of Georgia

The figure above shows the median and typical range of melting in Greenland from 1981 to 2010. Compare that to the red line that indicates melting in 2019 so far. You will notice the sudden spike in melting associated with these high pressure systems and unusually warm temperatures over the past few weeks.

On the same day that the record melt occurred and the photo of the sled was taken, the Qaanaaq airport weather station measured a high temperature of nearly 60°F, unusually high for this time of year. year in northern Greenland.

Steffen M Olsen / Danish Meteorological Institute

With a general trend of increasing melting in Greenland during the summer months, we can expect further sea level rise and a change in the habits of the people and animals that visit and live in and around it. ‘Isle. Greenland is likely to experience a significant change in its environment over the next few decades.

Bette C. Alvarado