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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  21 Sep 2020

21 Sep 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Surface melting over the Greenland ice sheet from enhanced resolution passive microwave brightness temperatures (1979–2019)

Paolo Colosio1, Marco Tedesco2,3, Xavier Fettweis4, and Roberto Ranzi1 Paolo Colosio et al.
  • 1DICATAM, Università degli Studi di Brescia, Brescia 25123, Italy
  • 2Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY10964, USA
  • 3NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY10025, USA
  • 4Department of Geography, University of Liège, Liège 4000, Belgium

Abstract. Surface melting is a major component of the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) surface mass balance, affecting sea level rise through direct runoff and the modulation on ice dynamics and hydrological processes, supraglacially, englacially and subglacially. Passive microwave (PMW) brightness temperature observations are of paramount importance in studying the spatial and temporal evolution of surface melting in view of their long temporal coverage (1979–to date) and high temporal resolution (daily). However, a major limitation of PMW datasets has been the relatively coarse spatial resolution, being historically of the order of tens of kilometres. Here, we use a newly released passive microwave dataset (37 GHz, horizontal polarization) made available through the NASA MeASUREs program to study the spatiotemporal evolution of surface melting over the GrIS at an enhanced spatial resolution of 3.125 Km. We assess the outputs of different detection algorithms through data collected by Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) and the outputs of the MAR regional climate model. We found that surface melting is well captured using a dynamic algorithm based on the outputs of MEMLS model, capable to detect sporadic and persistent melting. Our results indicate that, during the reference period 1979–2019 (1988–2019), surface melting over the GrIS increased in terms of both duration, up to ~4.5 (2.9) days per decade, and extension, up to 6.9 % (3.6 %) of the GrIS surface extent per decade, according to the MEMLS algorithm. Furthermore, the melting season has started up to ~4 (2.5) days earlier and ended ~7 (3.9) days later per decade. We also explored the information content of the enhanced resolution dataset with respect to the one at 25 km and MAR outputs through a semi-variogram approach. We found that the enhanced product is more sensitive to local scale processes, hence confirming the potential interest of this new enhanced product for studying surface melting over Greenland at a higher spatial resolution than the historical products and monitor its impact on sea level rise. This offers the opportunity to improve our understanding of the processes driving melting, to validate modelled melt extent at high resolution and potentially to assimilate this data in climate models.

Paolo Colosio et al.

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Paolo Colosio et al.

Paolo Colosio et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We use a new satellite dataset to study the spatiotemporal evolution of surface melting over Greenland at the enhanced resolution of 3.125 km. Using meteorological data and the regional climate model MAR, we found that a dynamic algorithm can best detect surface melting. We found that the melting season is elongating, the melt extent is increasing and that the high-resolution data better describes the spatiotemporal evolution of the melting season, crucial to improve estimates of sea level rise.
We use a new satellite dataset to study the spatiotemporal evolution of surface melting over...