Saturday, June 27, 2009

Greenland:Degree Days and the Lack of Warming

Greenland is melting, at least that is the headlines. Everyone in the global warming camp is quaking in their boots awaiting the great flood, foretold long ago by Algore the Magnificent.

Tonight we are going to look at the data for Greenland. There are only a few stations on Greenland which have any length at all. The longest is for Godthab Nuuk 64.17N 51.75W degrees. That record begins in 1866.

Now, if Greenland's temperature is warming, we should see it easily in the degree days above zero. Ice, of course can't melt if it is below zero. It can ablate, but ablation is not caused by global warming. So, if Greenland is warming we should see an increase in both the temperature and the number of days spent above zero deg C. The multiplication of temperature and days is called degree-days. Such calculations are used by electrical companies to estimate how much electricity will be needed for a given area. We can use it to see if there is an increase in degree-days over the past century in Greenland. Below is the degree-days for Godthab Nuuk, Greenland.

One can see immediately that the early 1930s were in general warmer at Godthab Nuuk than they are today. The 2003 peak didn't even match the peaks of the 1930s.

The second longest record in Greenland is Angmagssalik 65.6N, 37.63W. That record started in 1895. Here is the degree-days chart for that town.

Once again, the warming in Angmagssalik, as measured by degree-days, does not match that of the 1930s, yet we are supposed to all be worried about the present warming.

All the other records start after the 1930s and so don't show the warmth of the 1930s in Greenland. From one perspective, they are not useful for long term measurments, but on the other hand they show that the warming of the current days is not all that unusual. Here are Dansmarkhavn, Prins Christi, Egedesminde While these show a bit of warming since 1950, so do the other two longer term records.

I would also like to add a station which is not all that far from Greenland, Reykjavik, Iceland. It has a long record and clearly doesn't show the warming that everyone is fearing.

It is amazing what a small group of people can convince the world is true, so long as the other people don't actually care to look at the data.

All the data was accessed via this site


  1. How do you get the data from that site for those stations.. I tried and get only ''no data for that station''

    You claimed to show the ''number of days spent above zero deg C'' , but you have more than 365/366 days in your graphic. So what is it really showing.

  2. I click GHCN all button at top. I then go down to the select station part of the page. I then select the location off the world map (there is a link to it). It then comes back to this page with the lat-long filled in. I click get stations. It comes up with a list of possible stations. Then you click on the 'get data' link. It comes up with a page showing graphs. At the bottom of the graph is a link for raw data. I click that and it downloads a text file of the monthly data

  3. First off, it seems somewhat limiting as defining “ablation” as having nothing to do with global warming. When I looked it up it seems that Ablation is defined as “Ablation: All processes by which snow and ice are lost from a glacier, floating ice, or snow cover. These processes include melting, evaporation, (sublimation), wind erosion, and calving” (Glossary of Geology, AGI) It would seem that, indeed, ablation is intrinsically related to global warming.

    Now, here's some interesting stuff from Science Daily just this month (
    "The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than expected, according to a new study led by a University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher and published in the journal Hydrological Processes."
    "The study also shows that seas now are rising by more than 3 millimeters a year--more than 50 percent faster than the average for the 20th century."
    "UAF researcher Sebastian H. Mernild and colleagues from the United States, United Kingdom and Denmark discovered that from 1995 to 2007, overall precipitation on the ice sheet decreased while surface ablation--the combination of evaporation, melting and calving of the ice sheet--increased."

    As for the temperature record in Greenland, there apparently is some degree of cooling in the southern half of Greenland while all around the arctic there is significant warming.(remember the system is quite complex).
    You should look at the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (, especially the "Key Finding 1" pdf document. Note figure on Page 23 that shows the distribution of observed surface air temperature change from 1954 to 2003.

    I think the problem with your post is that you seem to think that posting temperature data proves somehow that Greenland’s icesheet is _not_ in danger. Clearly the researchers at Alaska Fairbanks, scientists in the UK and Denmark (the latter being the folks responsible for Greenland as you know) appear to see significant loss of icesheet. In fact the Executive summary from the ACIA report I mentioned earlier states: “The area of the Greenland ice sheet that experiences some melting as increased about 16% from 1979 to 2002. The area of melting in 2002 broke all previous records”.

    I know the arguments that there appears to have been warming in the 1930’s and the entire Greenland icesheet didn’t completely collapse, but considering that the current findings are in line with what global climate change predictions indicated _would_ start to happen, it is sobering to realize that now, as we see predictions starting to play out, shouldn’t we start to take it seriously?

  4. Physically, back when I took thermodynamics as a physics student meant the loss of ice without melting. That is the sense in which I meant the term. This is a process that happens below zero degrees C. So, no, the sense of the term in which I was using it was not as it has come to be re-defined by the global warmers.

    Wikipedia's article on Ablation starts with the definition I am using "Ablation is defined as the removal of material from the surface of an object by vaporization, chipping, or other erosive processes."

    That definition does not include melting. Sand blasting the ice would be ablation. Melting wouldn't.

    No I have posted pictures of Siberian temperatures and there is no warming around the arctic. You can, if you would, go look at them on this very blog.

    I am afraid that you are now mixing the concept of ice sheet loss of material with global warming. The temperature data should show warming, if the world is warming, or are you one of those who believes in phantom warming, that the earth is warming even though the thermomenters don't show it? A glacier can lose material if there is a decrease in snow but no decrease in flowage down the slope. Such a process has nothing to do with warming, but you now seem to be wanting to re-define warming as "things that happen without any actual warming" How crazy is that, Hagiograph?

    Hagiograph, the world was warmer for about 3000 years than it is today, in the Holocene, and the Greenland ice sheet didn't collapse. So why should we worry today? You keep forgetting that the world has already seen hotter temperatures, higher oceans and more Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets melted, and the world didn't end. That was 5000 years ago. 125,000 years ago, half of Greenlands ice was gone and the island hosted forests of spruce. We have been there, several times.

  5. Unfortunately when you are dealing with glacial topics you are required to align your definitions with glaciology usage. But I understand that terminology is different in different areas. But this is a glaciology discussion.

    This has _not_ been "redefined" by global warming advocates. I believe it is a rather common glaciology term completely independent of global warming.

    I agree it is sloppy to quote Wikipedia when there are actual glaciology glossaries around. That's why I went with a geological definition.

    As for your Siberian posts it might be very important for you to notify the researchers as Alaska Fairbanks as well as the Danes (who control Greenland) and the researchers in Norway.

    As for "phantom warming", clearly I don't believe in that. Your Greenland post indicates that it must be impossible for the Greenland icesheet to be melting to the extent that is claimed due to your degree-days plots. I was merely pointing out that there appear to be a very large number of professionals in the field who are stationed in the arctic and sub-arctic who say that indeed there is warming and there is loss of icesheet.

    Your final paragraph stated: "It is amazing what a small group of people can convince the world is true, so long as the other people don't actually care to look at the data."

    Well, it appears that the data as shown in the ACIA report as well indicate that there is significant warming and record ice sheet loss.

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