Cryospheric Sciences

Image of the Week — Greenland ice sheet and clouds

Image of the Week — Greenland ice sheet and clouds

A new study combining satellite observations and model simulations shows that clouds increase meltwater runoff in Greenland by one-third compared to a cloud-free scenario.

Precipitation effects not considered, clouds above the Greenland ice sheet reduce its Surface Mass Balance (SMB) [red in figure] compared to clear-sky conditions [blue in figure]. Because clouds trap the outgoing radiation from the ice-sheet surface, they locally warm the atmosphere below, which reduces Greenland’s meltwater refreezing at night. Hence, clouds increase runoff from the ice sheet by 56 billion tons of water each year.

Reference/further reading:

  • Van Tricht, K., S. Lhermitte, J. T. M. Lenaerts, I. V. Gorodetskaya, T. S. L’Ecuyer, B. Noël, M. R. van den Broeke, D. D. Turner, and N. P. M. van Lipzig. 2016. “Clouds Enhance Greenland Ice Sheet Meltwater Runoff.” Nature Communications 7 (January). Nature Publishing Group: 10266. doi:10.1038/ncomms10266.
  • Article in the Washington Post about the paper.
  • You can follow Kristof Van Tricht the study’s lead author on twitter @kristofvt.
Sophie Berger is a postdoc at the Alfred Wegener Institut, Germany. She is using various remote sensing data and techniques to investigate the dynamics and stability of the ice shelves in Dronning Maud Land (East Antarctica). She completed her PhD at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Brussels, Belgium. She tweets as @SoBrgr.

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