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Greenland’s Lost Summer

July 14, 2018

By Paul Homewood


Greenland meltdown latest:



Millions of shorebirds descend on the Arctic each year to mate and raise chicks during the tundra’s brief burst of summer. But that burst, which usually begins in mid-June, never arrived this year for eastern Greenland’s shorebirds, a set of ground-nesting species. Instead, a record late snowpack—lingering into July—sealed the birds off from food and nesting sites. Without these key resources avian migrants to the region will not reproduce in 2018, experts say. Breeding failures like this may grow more common because some climate change models predict increased springtime snow in the shorebirds’ nesting habitat.

Snowmelt usually allows shorebirds to begin nesting on eastern Greenland’s treeless tundra during the first half of June, says Jeroen Reneerkens, an avian ecologist at the University of Groningen who has studied these birds since 2003. However, when he arrived this year at Zackenberg Station on June 14 to survey sanderlings, a species of Arctic-breeding shorebird, he found they had nowhere to construct their nests. “The tundra was 100 percent covered in snow, and it was a very deep layer,” he says, estimating an average depth of about one meter. “It was a big shock to see the place like that,” he adds.

Most years, mid-June is also a time of song in eastern Greenland—shorebirds croon to attract mates and defend breeding territory. But this year the tundra was “truly silent,” Reneerkens says. “That was very unusual.” The few shorebirds he did encounter, including sanderlings, ruddy turnstones and red knots, wandered the snow-free patches outside the station’s buildings in search of food. “They were just starving,” he says. “I realized these birds were not getting ready to breed at all. They’re just in survival mode.”………………


Researchers elsewhere in the Arctic are also reporting unusually late snowmelt this year, with repercussions for shorebirds. Richard Lanctot, a researcher for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, believes record late snowmelt inhibited nesting near Utqiavik (formerly Barrow) on the northern coast of Alaska. His group’s nest count this summer so far is among the lowest since they began monitoring in 2003. Shiloh Schulte, an avian ecologist who works in northeastern Alaska for the conservation nonprofit Manomet, says snowmelt was more than two weeks later than normal in his region. He noticed flocks of long-billed dowitchers and American golden plovers gathering to migrate south without breeding. “Everything needs to be timed perfectly for these birds to be successful,” Schulte says of the short Arctic summer. On Southampton Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, shorebirds nested at less than half their typical densities due the late snowmelt, according to research scientist Paul Smith of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Even with similar trends throughout the North American Arctic, nowhere has been hit harder than eastern Greenland.


And naturally, it is all the fault of global warming!

Senner fears this nonbreeding year in eastern Greenland could herald an alarming trend. Climate models predict the Arctic atmosphere will hold more moisture as global temperatures rise, he notes. A wetter atmosphere means more snow in winter and spring, potentially causing late snowmelt to interfere with shorebird reproduction. He says the bird populations should be resilient to a single poor breeding year like 2018 but worries what might happen if this year’s catastrophe becomes standard. “Even though things aren’t normally as extreme as the current situation in Greenland,” he says, “this is the kind of thing that seems to be happening more and more frequently across the Arctic”—which is probably bad news for birds.


Of course, it was only two years ago that we were told Greenland’s summers were getting warmer.

  1. Charles Wardrop permalink
    July 14, 2018 11:04 am

    Why do the “experts” and the “great and the good” notall admit there is room for doubt in the climate doomsters’ predictions?
    Are money and self duped prestige the explanations, and/or unscientific bloody mindedness?

  2. July 14, 2018 11:56 am

    Excuse me, but this has happened before. These bird species have been around though several glacial episodes. Oh, what did they do then? Somehow they survived.

    The arrogance of these nincompoops who think nothing can survive without their hand-wringing. Birds survived, fuzzy wiggly little furry mammals survived, man survived and even plants muddled through massive climate changes. They will again.

    BTW, this is how glaciers get started. Things don’t melt as much during the summer. If you pile enough of those summers up, you have a glacier……

  3. July 14, 2018 12:03 pm

    Meanwhile the beeb is reporting on a “huge” berg threatening the western Greenland village of Innaarsuit.

    Of course, “Some experts have warned that extreme iceberg events risk becoming more frequent because of climate change. This in turn increases the risk from tsunami.”

  4. July 14, 2018 12:05 pm

    “……… However, when he arrived this year at Zackenberg Station on June 14 to survey sanderlings, a species of Arctic-breeding shorebird, he found they had nowhere to construct their nests. …………………“

    Perhaps they are breeding somewhere else – they can fly you know!

  5. July 14, 2018 1:30 pm

    Today a Times letter lays into the National Infrastructure Cmmttee report
    I posted it on the relevant thread here.

    • dave permalink
      July 14, 2018 3:55 pm

      It is snowing in Greenland, probably because the jet-stream has a temporary Northerly loop.

      I note the presence in the article – as usual with effusions from half-trained, nitwit, scientists, who should have been kicked off their courses in the first year of University – of the utter howler that warmer air “holds” more moisture (cue for mental picture of a f**g sponge).

      Meanwhile, the sea-ice in Antarctica, which was breathlessly reported two years ago as SHRIIINKIIING, is making a complete recovery (not that it was ever “sick”):

      • dave permalink
        July 14, 2018 5:28 pm

        Of course, the dew point of warm air is higher than the dew point of cold air.
        And this is relevant to any situation involving high relative (sic – as opposed to specific) humidity.

        The error of the sponge view is that it produces a mental picture of warm air having some sort of traction power – vigorously sucking up water.

  6. Richard Woollaston permalink
    July 14, 2018 4:39 pm

    And just to muddy the waters there’s a panic about a huge iceberg that broke off in June:

    • July 14, 2018 6:52 pm

      Broke off/calved the Helmein Glacier. Looks like the terminus of the glacier is approx in the same position as it was in 2005 – and in 1933

  7. John permalink
    July 14, 2018 6:11 pm

    Sigh, I normally try to avoid insulting anyone. It is so sad that these apparent microcephalic pseudo scientists are so short sighted as to completely misunderstand climate changes of the earth. All they do is come up with this tired “it is too hot” and then flip to “it is too cold”.

  8. mikewaite permalink
    July 14, 2018 9:30 pm

    For more information on the arctic shore birds see:

    Meltofte et al., Hans
    Effects of climate variation on the breeding ecology of Arctic shorebirds

    2007, 46 pp., e-publication
    Illustrated, 19 x 26,5 cm
    ISBN 978-87-635-3057-6
    Series: Monographs on Greenland | Meddelelser om Grønland, vol. 344
    ISSN 0025-6676
    Series: Bioscience, vol. 59
    ISSN 0106-1054

    It is open access

  9. Phoenix44 permalink
    July 15, 2018 8:40 am

    There seems to be a segue between snowmelt timing and “more snow” in order to blame climate change. Surely if it is warmer year round that more than makes up for any more snow? It seems very unlikely that we were in the ideal temperature where the melt and the amount of snow coincided perfectly for these birds. And when was that if so? 1900? 1950? 1800? And is thus year’s temperature in any way unusual?

    This is just another claim that is not thought through in any way.

    • dave permalink
      July 15, 2018 5:12 pm

      Another year of Arctic Sea-Ice progressing quietly to the seasonal minimum. Same as last year…and the year before…and the year before…

  10. Michael Grace permalink
    July 17, 2018 12:12 am

    Many species have not survived recent climactic oscillations and other interventions. The extinction of mammal species proceeds apace; soon few large species will remain. There is always an idea of better weather ahead, somewhere.

  11. saparonia permalink
    July 18, 2018 1:48 pm

    I have said this before and will continue until somebody shakes these people to their senses.
    Carbon release and volcanism are indications of cooling. They occurred before Ice Ages. Ice redistributes from polar regions as rain and snow, the melt is not a symptom of warming, it is part of the process of cooling. Technically we are still in an Ice Age as we still have continents covered in ice. Additionally the Sun has dropped into it’s minimum and this will also have a cooling effect. This year there will be reductions in harvest expectations.
    We are badly in need of educating ourselves about survival, and this game being played is hampering our future.

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