Greenland lost record-breaking 0.5 trillion tons of ice in 2010 – to surface melting only

In 2010 Greenland lost more surface ice mass than in any other year since modern observations began, researchers of City College New York reported on Friday.

Their findings are based on NOAA satellite data and surface measurements, combined using a special ice sheet computer model. The study was published in Environmental Research Letters. It also had WWF, NASA and the US National Science Foundation involved.

Last year’s runoff was almost twice as high as the average for the past half century: 530 gigatonnes of ice were lost, compared to 274 gigatonnes on average over the period between 1958 and 2009.

The melting figure does not include ice loss caused by calving and ice dynamics – thought to be at least equally high according to lead researcher Marco Tedesco, who heads the College’s Cryosphere Processes Laboratory.

Top 3 Greenland melting years: 2010, 2007, 2005

This means the year 2010, among many other climate records, for instance coral bleaching, also set the Greenland melting record. The year 2007 has the second highest melting. The third highest rate of melting occurred just two years previous, in 2005.

Top 3 world hottest years: 2010, 2005, 2009

According to both NASA and NOAA the years 2010 and 2005 are tied (2010 measured 0.01 C warmer than 2005) as having the highest world average temperatures on record. The leading NASA GISS dataset shows the years 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2009 are statistically tied for third warmest year – with 2007 measurements the highest of these six.

Our regular readers were well aware that the record high global temperatures of 2010 were indeed also reflected by record high summer temperatures on the Greenland ice sheet, record high summer melting and a record high melting area – as NOAA reported last November.

The City College researchers now conclude the 2010 summer temperatures were 2 to 3 degrees Celsius above average, actually higher than NOAA’s Arctic Report Card had stated. In some areas the melting season was 50 days longer than normal.

© Rolf Schuttenhelm |

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