Early Melt on the Greenland Ice Sheet



Washington, DC, United States

On June 15, 2016, the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite acquired a natural-color image of an area just inland from the coast of southwestern Greenland (120 kilometers southeast of Ilulisat and 500 kilometers north-northeast of Nuuk). According to Marco Tedesco, a professor at Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, melting in this area began relatively early in April but was not sustained. It started up again in May and grew into the watery June scene pictured above.

Surface melt can directly contribute to sea level rise via runoff. It can also force its way through crevasses to the base of a glacier, temporarily speeding up ice flow and indirectly contributing to sea level rise. Also, ponding of meltwater can “darken” the ice sheet’s surface and lead to further melting.

Read more: earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=88288

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team

NASA image use policy.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.


  • Title: Early Melt on the Greenland Ice Sheet
  • Date Created: 2017-12-08
  • Location: Greenbelt, MD
  • Rights: GSFC
  • Album: ayoung

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