Night time clouds have a big role in melting of Greenland Ice Sheet

Meltwater stream flowing into a large moulin in the ablation zone (area below the equilibrium line) of the Greenland ice sheet. (Image courtesy: Roger J. Braithwaite, The University of Manchester, UK / Source: NASA)
Meltwater stream flowing into a large moulin in the ablation zone (area below the equilibrium line) of the Greenland ice sheet. (Image courtesy: Roger J. Braithwaite, The University of Manchester, UK / Source: NASA)

Main Point:

Clouds, particularly at night, have a huge role in the melting of Greenland ice sheet, whether these clouds have snow or liquid.

Published in:

Nature Communications

Study Further:

Researchers are working on Greenland ice sheet in order to know the reasons behind its melting, and now they have found the probable mechanism, i.e. clouds are involved in that melting.

Perhaps, you want to know, why researchers have so much interest in Greenland Ice Sheet? Reason behind these researches is that Greenland Ice Sheet is the second largest Ice Sheet in our world. It is melting rapidly, and becoming an important cause of global sea level rise.

In the study, researchers used ground instruments as well as satellite observations to study the clouds covering the entire ice sheet. They also performed the similar computations and studied the ice sheet with clear skies. After doing all these investigations, they found that clouds enhance the melt runoff. Researchers observed that both liquid-bearing as well as ice-only clouds are becoming the cause of warmth on the surface of the ice sheet.

Researchers also found that cloud warming is highest during night as compared to clear skies. Observations showed that clear skies at night result in colder surface, thereby refreezing the meltwater. On the other hand, presence of clouds in the night result in reduced level of refreezing of meltwater. Surplus meltwater can result in an extra 56 billion tons of runoff as compared to the condition without clouds.

Source:

Van Tricht, K., Lhermitte, S., Lenaerts, J., Gorodetskaya, I., L’Ecuyer, T., Noël, B., van den Broeke, M., Turner, D., & van Lipzig, N. (2016). Clouds enhance Greenland ice sheet meltwater runoff Nature Communications, 7 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10266

Usman Zafar Paracha

Usman Zafar Paracha is Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutics, in Hajvery University, Lahore, Pakistan.