Greenland May Become Green Again

July 27th, 2012
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect:  The ice melt in Greenland has reached a modern high level in the summer of 2012, according to NASA.   The giant Petermann Glacier greenland-scenery-villageSMALLproduced a giant calf for the second time in two years (2010 and 2012).  The extent of melt seen this summer was last experienced in 1889.  The expansion of the area melting grew from 40% to 97% of the ice sheet in just four days from July 8 to the 12th.  NASA scientists described the rapidity of the expansion as “extraordinary”.  On the other hand, Fox News reports that skeptics say the concern about the melting event is unwarranted.  These skeptics cite that this event occurs regularly, once approximately every 150 years, on average.

Click on photo for large scenery view of Greenland village.

Follow up:

As sudden as this summer’s ice melt phenomenon may seem, it is part of a progression of events that has been occurring for decades.  The following graph from EEA (European Environmental Agency) shows the progression of ice melting for the 30 years 1978-2008.


The following graph shows that as recently as 2003-2005 the net change in ice mass of Greenland has been positive, but the very short-term has been sharply toward increasing ice mass loss.


The EEA has published estimates of what temperature changes would be necessary to trigger certain major climate/geological effects for the planet.  The temperature changes reference 1990.


The global temperature change since 1990 is approximately +0.50C, according to the data published by Hansen (see second graph below).  A smaller estimate (0.2-0.30C) is obtained from the graph below.

Click on graphic for larger image.


The following graph is from the GEI image files (source unknown).


This gives some perspective of the estimated temperature changes over the past two millennia.  The following graphic by Hansen shows the temperature rebound from the mini ice age over the past two centuries.

Click on graph for larger image.


But when one looks at short time periods, as in the following graph from the Daily Mail, temperature changes may not be evident.


The Daily Mail article discusses the viewpoint that the sun spot cycle could dominate earth’s weather and we could be going back into a mini ice age based on that.

If Greenland really is going to continue warming, it has a way yet to go to return to the climate and landscape found there by Norse explorers and settlers a thousand years ago.  There were extensive land areas settled as shown in the following graphic from Archaeology:


The Viking settlements reached a population of 5,000 or more and remained for about 450 years before they disappeared after losing contact with their Scandinavian ancestral homeland, due to many factors but most probably primarily the Black Death devastation of Europe in the latter part of the 14th century and the increasing hazard to navigation from increased ice flows as the climate cooled.

When the Vikings arrived in Greenland in 980 AD they found evidence of earlier inhabitants, known as the Dorset people, an advanced Paleo-Eskimo culture that flourished from 500 AD to the 6th or 7th centuries AD, but then went into decline and vanished completely between 1200 and 1500 AD.

The Inuit started settling Greenland in the 1200s just as the climate was cooling and the Vikings were nearing the end of their settlement period. The Inuit constitute 88% of the 56,000 inhabitants of Greenland today.  Most of the remaining population is Danish.

A paper posted by the Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis website has the following five possibilities for how and why the Vikings disappeared from Greenland:

Killed off by the Inuit.  The Vikings were aggressively hostile to native peoples.

Loss of contact with Europe.  Inability of survive without supplies from Norway.

Poor horticulture.  Farming methods depleted the soil and caused destructive erosion.

Climate change.  Global cooling made the harsh Greenland environment even more challenging.

Failure to adapt to local food sources.  There are indications of severe malnutrition because the Vikings didn’t eat the abundant marine life available.


Another possibility that has been in North American folklore for centuries is that the remaining Vikings migrated to North America and became absorbed in the native populations there.  There is little scientific evidence that happened, but the folklore from early explorers and from the native oral history have both presented material which could be consistent with such an occurrence.  And the oral and written history of the Vikings on Greenland contained the record of eleventh century Viking settlements that have recently been unearthed in Newfoundland, so the remnant population on Greenland definitely would have known of the escape route to the west.

Back to modern day Greenland, live through a dangerous glacier calving experience in the following MSN video.  Click on image to view.


John Lounsbury


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  1. MRW says :

    This is grossly inaccurate: "These skeptics say that this event occurs regularly, once approximately every 150 years, on average.

    The person who said that was Lori Koenig in the NASA press release. (Don't you verify?) She was one of the scientists observing and reporting on the heat dome (warm winds) over Greenland.

  2. Admin (Member) Email says :

    MRW - - -

    Thanks for commenting.

    The word "say" has been changed to "cite" to reflect your concern.

    The sentence now reads:

    These skeptics cite that this event occurs regularly, once approximately every 150 years, on average.

    The use of the word "say" was ill-advised and in no way reflects faulty research - simply poor editing.

    We hope you will continue to point out improvements that can be made in what we post.

    Perhaps you can do the same favor for Fox News which wrote an entire story based on the erroneous misquote that the extent of the ice melt was unprecedented. What the NASA report stated was that the extreme speed of progression of the melt (in 4 days) was unprecedented. Nowhere did NASA say the extent was unprecedented - Fox committed a serious error in fact here.

    The quibble I had as an editor (but did not add an editorial comment) was lack of qualification of unprecedented for what period of time. My inference was that the observation would be for only the past several decades when daily melt extent data has been collected. As far as my research could determine, there is no data on daily extent of ice melt in previous "high melt" cycles, simply measurement of maximum extent.

    Thanks again for commenting. Also again, maybe you can give Fox News the same kind of help you have given us?

    John Lounsbury

  3. MRW says :

    The truth is, as specified in the press release, that it was the NASA scientists who said this event occurs on average every 150 years, not the skeptics. The last time it happened was 1889, so one (Koenig) proclaimed we're "right on target." Her math, not mine.

    As for contacting Fox, I don't have any back molars left to go after them. It's a waste of time.

    My interest these days is the 4-inch change in the tilt of the earth's axis after the Fukushima earthquake, which scientists consider significant, but blog commenters view as something on a ruler. (Extrapolate that change out 93 million miles to the sun.) The Ice Ages were caused by shifts in the earth's axis, which changed the angle of the sun hitting the earth. Atmospheric climate scientists say the thermohalene current is controlled by the wind (as is the arctic sea extant) and the earth's axis. Could the Fukushima axis change and the one that happened in the Sri Lanka tsunami be causing these weather changes? Who ever heard of tornadoes in Georgia and New York? Why is Oklahoma getting Nevada summer weather? Why have Alaska, B.C. Washington, Oregon, Northern CA, and Nevada had cooler than normal weather?



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