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Keywords:

  • Greenland;
  • ice sheets;
  • melt;
  • climate change

[1] The total extent of ice melt on the Greenland ice sheet has been increasing during the last three decades. The melt extent observed in 2007 in particular was the greatest on record according to several satellite-derived records of total Greenland melt extent. Total annual observed melt extent across the Greenland ice sheet has been shown to be strongly related to summer temperature measurements from stations located along Greenland's coast, as well as to variations in atmospheric circulation across the North Atlantic. We make use of these relationships along with historical temperature and circulation observations to develop a near-continuous 226 year reconstructed history of annual Greenland melt extent dating from 2009 back into the late eighteenth century. We find that the recent period of high-melt extent is similar in magnitude but, thus far, shorter in duration, than a period of high melt lasting from the early 1920s through the early 1960s. The greatest melt extent over the last 2 1/4 centuries occurred in 2007; however, this value is not statistically significantly different from the reconstructed melt extent during 20 other melt seasons, primarily during 1923–1961.