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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-243
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-243
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 10 Dec 2018

Research article | 10 Dec 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Increased Greenland melt triggered by large-scale, year-round precipitation events

Marilena Oltmanns1, Fiammetta Straneo2, and Marco Tedesco3 Marilena Oltmanns et al.
  • 1GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
  • 2Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego
  • 3Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University

Abstract. Surface melting is a major driver of Greenland's mass loss. Yet, the mechanisms that trigger melt are still insufficiently understood because seasonally-based studies blend processes initiating melt with positive feedbacks. Here, we focus on the triggers of melt by examining the synoptic atmospheric conditions associated with 313 rapid melt increases, detected in a satellite-derived melt extent product, equally distributed throughout the year over the period 1979–2012. By combining reanalysis and weather station data, we show that melt is initiated by a cyclone-driven, southerly flow of warm, moist air, which gives rise to large-scale precipitation. A decomposition of the synoptic atmospheric variability over Greenland suggests that the identified, melt-triggering weather pattern accounts for ~40% of the net precipitation but increases in the frequency, duration and areal extent of the initiated melting have shifted the line between mass gain and mass loss as more melt and rainwater run off or accumulate in the snowpack. Using a regional climate model, we estimate that the initiated melting more than doubled over the investigated period, amounting to ~28% of the overall surface melt and revealing that, despite the involved mass gain, year-round precipitation events are participating in the ice sheet's decline.

Marilena Oltmanns et al.
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Marilena Oltmanns et al.
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Short summary
By combining reanalysis, weather station and satellite data, we show, that increases in surface melt over Greenland are initiated by large-scale precipitation events throughout the year. Estimates from a regional climate model suggest that the initiated melting more than doubled between 1988 and 2012, amounting to ~ 28 % of the overall melt and implying that, despite the involved mass gain, year-round precipitation events are contributing to the ice sheet's decline.
By combining reanalysis, weather station and satellite data, we show, that increases in surface...
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