Articles | Volume 11, issue 5
The Cryosphere, 11, 2363–2381, 2017

Special issue: Mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet

The Cryosphere, 11, 2363–2381, 2017

Special issue editorial 23 Oct 2017

Special issue editorial | 23 Oct 2017

Investigating the local-scale influence of sea ice on Greenland surface melt

Julienne C. Stroeve1,2, John R. Mioduszewski3, Asa Rennermalm4, Linette N. Boisvert5, Marco Tedesco6, and David Robinson4 Julienne C. Stroeve et al.
  • 1National Snow and Ice Data Center, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, 449 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
  • 2Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, University College London, Department of Earth Sciences, Gower Street, London, WC1E6BT, UK
  • 3Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin – Madison, 1225 W. Dayton St., Madison, WI 53706, USA
  • 4Department of Geography, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, 54 Joyce Kilmer Avenue, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8045, USA
  • 5NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
  • 6Lamont-Doherty Earth Observation, Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964-8000, USA

Abstract. Rapid decline in Arctic sea ice cover in the 21st century may have wide-reaching effects on the Arctic climate system, including the Greenland ice sheet mass balance. Here, we investigate whether local changes in sea ice around the Greenland ice sheet have had an impact on Greenland surface melt. Specifically, we investigate the relationship between sea ice concentration, the timing of melt onset and open-water fraction surrounding Greenland with ice sheet surface melt using a combination of remote sensing observations, and outputs from a reanalysis model and a regional climate model for the period of 1979–2015. Statistical analysis points to covariability between Greenland ice sheet surface melt and sea ice within Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. While some of this covariance can be explained by simultaneous influence of atmospheric circulation anomalies on both the sea ice cover and Greenland melt, within Baffin Bay we find a modest correlation between detrended melt onset over sea ice and the adjacent ice sheet melt onset. This correlation appears to be related to increased transfer of sensible and latent heat fluxes from the ocean to the atmosphere in early sea ice melt years, increasing temperatures and humidity over the ice sheet that in turn initiate ice sheet melt.

Short summary
As the sea ice has declined strongly in recent years there has been a corresponding increase in Greenland melting. While both are likely a result of changes in atmospheric circulation patterns that favor summer melt, this study evaluates whether or not sea ice reductions around the Greenland ice sheet are having an influence on Greenland summer melt through enhanced sensible and latent heat transport from open water areas onto the ice sheet.