The Greenland ice sheet is losing mass (Barletta et al. 2012) and at least half of this loss is caused by an increase in surface melt (e.g. Tedesco et al. 2013). The other part is caused by increased dynamic mass loss, as marine-terminating glaciers lose resistive stresses (Nick et al. 2009) due to both retreat and meltwater lubrication at the bed (Sasgen et al. 2012).
In 2007, the Programme for Monitoring of the Greenland Ice Sheet (PROMICE) was initiated with the aim of gaining an insight into the causes of the ice-mass budget changes based on quantitative observations. This is primarily done by assessing how much mass is gained as snow accumulation on the surface versus how much is lost by calving and surface ablation (Ahlstrøm et al. 2008). PROMICE monitors the surface mass balance by means of automatic weather stations (AWSs) designed to quantify accumulation and ablation, as well as the specific energy sources contributing to ablation. These observations are vital to interpreting the physical mechanisms for ice-sheet response to climate change and for the calibration and validation of both satellite observations and climate models.
In the wake of several record-breaking warm summers – increasing surface melt rate and extent (Nghiem et al. 2012) – interest in Greenland’s surface mass balance has increased (Tedesco et al. 2013). Observations of net ablation at PROMICE stations provided in situ confirmation of extreme massloss events in 2010 (Fausto et al. 2012) and 2012, primarily documented by other workers through satellite data. In this paper, we present atmospheric temperatures and surface solar reflectivity (known as albedo) of the Greenland ice sheet in the PROMICE period. Albedo modulates the absorption of solar radiation, which is the primary source of melt energy. It is reported to be decreasing in Greenland in recent years (Box et al. 2012), causing the monitoring of albedo variability to be increasingly important. Air temperatures, besides being strongly correlated to surface melt rates, affect surface albedo by controlling the rate of snow-grain metamorphism and the fraction of summer precipitation falling as rain versus snow. To elucidate the so-called melt-albedo feedback, whereby increased melt darkens the ice sheet and further enhances melt, the relationship between albedo and air temperature, observed at PROMICE stations, is examined in this study.
2013. Vol. 28, 69-72 p.