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Keywords:

  • Greenland ice sheet;
  • Oceansat-2 scatterometer;
  • summit;
  • extreme melt

On 12 July 2012, 98.6% of the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet melted, an event so expansive that a similar episode had not previously been seen in the satellite era. Ice core records indicate that the most recent melting event of this scale was 123 years ago. The one before that occurred another 7 centuries prior, during the Medieval Warm Period. Just 2 weeks following the near-total melt of the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet, after the surface ice had refrozen to seasonal levels, a second episode pushed the melt area back up to 79.2%. Compiling measurements from three different satellite systems and from in-the-field observations, Nghiem et al. describe the extent of the melt. The authors suggest that warm air ridges stagnating over Greenland, coincident with the melt episodes, may have underlain the extensive melting.