Greenland has been at the center of an enormous high pressure cell for the past couple of weeks:
This means direct sunlight, and unusually warm temperatures. And there is evidence that the top of the ice sheet is starting to melt.
This has been discussed at length, as all things Arctic-glaciology are, at Neven’s.
An especially interesting twist is this animated GIF, discovered by Steve Coulter with some extra processing by Ethan O’Connor, and following up on a comment by another commenter there. This is a radar image of Greenland over the ten days ending July 14, and it shows an abrupt state change, for which preliminary investigation of past records shows no precedent. Although visual imagery shows no comparably dramatic change, it does show (as the graph above indicates) substantially unprecedented darkening of the surface. It is reasonable to conclude that the persistent above-freezing temperatures at the top of the ice cap, with no known precedent, have created enough liquid water at the surface to change the radar reflectivity in some way.
There are two lessons here. One is that like astronomy, climatology can benefit from an enthusiastic amateur community and should do whatever it can to encourage, rather than discourage, broad participation. This radar image is exactly the sort of thing that specialists in their various silos and burrows might conceivably neglect that an amateur would call attention to. The second is that Greenland may be melting from the top, at least a bit. This matters because the albedo will take a very long to fully recover. Further melting from the top now becomes more likely.
In a tangentially relevant story, the UK has now implemented a national policy that all publicly funded data be publicly available within two years. This is a huge step forward. Can we get something like this elsewhere? Dr. Chu?
It is worth considering the extent to which the enemies of climate science have contributed to the open science movement. In the large, if they continue to obfuscate the real risks we face and the real steps we must take, this positive outcome will be greatly outweighed by the damage they do. And let’s be clear, email is not data and most actions by scientists are not suitable subjects for freedom of information investigations. Still, to the extent that their confused howling contributed to the democratization of science, they have actually done us all a service.
That said, note that it is not the “contrarians” who have achieved the Greenland animation, but the smaller community of amateurs who are deeply concerned about climate change. This is hardly a surprise.
The contrarians are opposed to evidence, and only look into it for purposes of casting doubt upon it. That is, they take the ample opportunities to glean confusion out of complexity. This is the opposite of science, which is to tease truth out of complexity, and which the radar sequence achieves at least at a visceral level.
In the end, open science will give them so much more to obfuscate about. But it’s hard to imagine that opening science will especially enable much additional damage. They have plenty to obfuscate about already, and if data is open as a matter of course then the random harassment/denial of service attack will need to find some other form.