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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 02 Jan 2019

Research article | 02 Jan 2019

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

Greenland Ice Sheet late-season melt: Investigating multi-scale drivers of K-transect events

Thomas J. Ballinger1, Thomas L. Mote2, Kyle Mattingly2, Angela C. Bliss3, Edward Hanna4, Dirk van As5, Melissa Prieto1, Saeideh Gharehchahi1, Xavier Fettweis6, Brice Noël7, Paul C. J. P. Smeets7, Mads H. Ribergaard8, and John Cappelen8 Thomas J. Ballinger et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, USA
  • 2Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA
  • 3College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA
  • 4School of Geography and Lincoln Centre for Water and Planetary Health, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK
  • 5Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 6Laboratory of Climatology, Department of Geography, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
  • 7Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 8Danish Meteorological Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract. One consequence of recent Arctic warming is an increased occurrence and longer seasonality of above-freezing air temperature episodes. There is significant disagreement in the literature concerning potential physical connectivity between high-latitude open water duration proximate to the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) and unseasonal (i.e. late summer and autumn) GrIS melt events. Here, a new date of sea ice advance (DOA) product is used to determine the occurrence of Baffin Bay sea ice growth along Greenland's west coast for the 2011–2015 period. For the unseasonal melt period preceding the DOA, northwest Atlantic Ocean and atmospheric conditions are analyzed and linked to unseasonal melt events observed at a series of on-ice automatic weather stations (AWS) along the K-transect in southwest Greenland. Mesoscale and synoptic influences on the above and below freezing surface air temperature events are assessed through analyses of AWS wind, pressure, and humidity observations. These surface observations are further compared against Modèle Atmosphérique Régional (MAR), Regional Atmospheric Climate Model (RACMO2), and ERA-Interim reanalysis fields to understand the airmass origins and (thermo)dynamic drivers of the melt events. Results suggest that the K-transect late season, ablation zone melt events are strongly affected by ridging atmospheric circulation patterns that transport warm, moist air from the sub-polar North Atlantic toward west Greenland. While thermal conduction and advection off south Baffin Bay open waters impact coastal air temperatures, consistent with previous studies, marine air incursions from Baffin Bay onto the ice sheet are obstructed by barrier flows and the pressure gradient-driven katabatic regime along the western GrIS margin.

Thomas J. Ballinger et al.
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Thomas J. Ballinger et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Studies have questioned links between Arctic marginal sea open water duration and Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) surface balance changes, namely melt events. Through analyses involving observations and climate models, we show that late summer through autumn “unseasonal” melt events are primarily driven by the northward movement of warm, moist air masses across the western ice sheet edge, while near-surface, off-ice winds block heat transfer off nearby Baffin Bay.
Studies have questioned links between Arctic marginal sea open water duration and Greenland Ice...