Changing surface–atmosphere energy exchange and refreezing capacity of the lower accumulation area, west Greenland Journal Article uri icon



  • Abstract. We present five years (2009–2013) of automatic weather station measurements from the lower accumulation area (1840 m a.s.l.) of the ice sheet in the Kangerlussuaq region, western Greenland. Here, the summers of 2010 and 2012 were both exceptionally warm, but only 2012 resulted in a strongly negative surface mass budget (SMB) and surface meltwater runoff. The observed runoff was due to a large ice fraction in the upper 10 m of firn that prevented meltwater from percolating to available pore volume below. Analysis reveals a relatively low 2012 summer albedo of ~0.7 as meltwater was present at the surface. Consequently, during the 2012 melt season the surface absorbed 29% (213 MJ m-2) more solar radiation than the average of all other years. A surface energy balance model is used to evaluate the seasonal and interannual variability of all surface energy fluxes. The model reproduces the observed melt rates as well as the SMB for each season. A sensitivity test reveals that 71% of the additional solar radiation in 2012 was used for melt, corresponding to 36% (0.64 m) of the 2012 surface lowering. The remaining 1.14 m was primarily due to the high atmospheric temperatures up to +2.6 °C daily average, indicating that 2012 would have been a negative SMB year at this site even without the melt-albedo feedback. Longer time series of SMB, regional temperature and remotely sensed albedo (MODIS) show that 2012 was the first strongly negative SMB year with the lowest albedo at this elevation on record. The warm conditions of the last years resulted in enhanced melt and reduction of the refreezing capacity at the lower accumulation area. If high temperatures continue the current lower accumulation area will turn into a region with superimposed ice in coming years.

publication date

  • May 27, 2015

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • November 6, 2020 3:11 AM

Full Author List

  • Charalampidis C; van As D; Box JE; van den Broeke MR; Colgan WT; MacFerrin M; Machguth H; Smeets PP

author count

  • 8

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