Satellite data shows greater Greenland ice melt

July 18, 2012

By YUMI NAKAYAMA/ Staff Writer

QAANAAQ, Greenland--Greenland's ice sheets are melting extensively, even in some inland areas, according to an image generated from data obtained by a Japanese climate-observation satellite.

Data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Shizuku satellite shows the ice has been in retreat most noticeably in the southern part of the vast island.

"In the south, ice is melting in many locations, even in inland areas at high altitudes," said Kazuhiro Naoki, who analyzed the satellite data.

In the image, the different hues of blue represent how many days the ice melted. Darker blue indicates where ice melted for longer periods.

The Shizuku satellite, which was carried into space on an H-2A rocket in May, observed the ice sheets between July 3 and 9. The data was analyzed at JAXA's Earth Observation Research Center.

Greenland's ice sheets have been surveyed since 2002. The extent of melting found in the satellite survey was similar to those seen in 2002 and 2007, when widespread melting was observed.

A team of researchers also recently visited Greenland to observe the conditions of the ice firsthand.

On July 16, they surveyed an ice sheet in the northwestern region of the land mass, located at an altitude of 1,500 meters. They found the surface of the ice had melted and become "like sherbet" as temperatures reached 2 degrees.

They also observed rainfall of around 10 centimeters over a three-day period.

Teruo Aoki, senior researcher at the Meteorological Research Institute of the Japan Meteorological Agency who took part in the observations for three weeks, expressed his surprise.

"I had not expected rain to fall there," he said. "The melting was greater than expected."

By YUMI NAKAYAMA/ Staff Writer
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The image based on data from the Shizuku satellite shows ice melting on Greenland in blue. (Provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

The image based on data from the Shizuku satellite shows ice melting on Greenland in blue. (Provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

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  • The image based on data from the Shizuku satellite shows ice melting on Greenland in blue. (Provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)
  • Ice melts under summer sun near Qaanaaq in northwestern Greenland on July 16, with water flowing from edges of a glacier. (Yumi Nakayama)

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