Earlier this month, the North Atlantic experienced a rare January hurricane, named Hurricane Alex. While Alex’s northward track kept it in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s arrival in the waters south of Greenland coincided with a sudden outflowing of meltwater through a bay in the Western Greenland, indicating that the warm winds that accompanied Alex had triggered a melting event.

Climate blogger Robert Scribbler theorizes that record-high temperatures seen in Western Greenland and Baffin Bay, caused by the warm remnants of hurricane Alex meeting a low pressure system south of Greenland, brought temperatures to above freezing, causing a sudden melting event on Western Greenland’s Jacobshavn Glacier. This melting event, documented in a blog entry made by glaciologist Mauri Pelto, flooded Disko Bay and Uummannaq Bay with fresh water, pushing the surface sea ice there out from the shoreline over the course of only a few days.

Satellite images show the dramatic clearing of the ice from the bays, along with a plume of sediment streaking out into the ocean — an indication that a large volume of water had suddenly entered the bay. In addition to this, the Danish Meteorological Institute documented a loss in ice mass in the region over the same time period.

This event is extremely unusual, in that this Arctic region is in the middle of winter, and sees barely an hour of sunlight at this time of year, yet would experience temperatures that would prompt a glacial melting event. Scribbler also points out that, according to the satellite data, there appears to have been an ice calving event along the leading edge of the glacier: this, along with the sudden appearance of sediment in the bay, suggests that the ice was forcibly ejected during the event. 

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