Greenland is the front line inhumanity’s battle against climate change. More and more of Greenland, whose frozen expanses are a living remnant of the last ice age, disappears each year, with as much as 150 billion metric tons of glacier vanishing annually, according to one estimate. If all the ice on Greenland were to melt tomorrow, global sea levels would rise more than 20 ft. – enough to swamp many coastal cities. link
(Full BBC profile here. See also Scientists have produced a stunning visualisation of Greenland – without its ice cover – BBC)      



  • General information
  • Ice loss increasing
  • Sea level rise
General information

Greenland is the world’s largest island. Formerly a province of Denmark, it gained the status of an autonomous Danish dependent territory with limited self-government as well as its own parliament in 1979. The climate in Greenland is extremely harsh. More than 80% of the island is covered by an ice cap 4km thick in places. Many of the Eskimo (Inuit) people survive by hunting and fishing and are struggling as fish stocks become depleted. The island’s population is only 57,000. Recent environmental studies have raised fears that global warming is causing Greenland’s ice cover to melt increasingly fast, and that this could have serious implications for future sea levels and ocean currents. The melting ice has also increased access to Greenland’s mineral resources, which could provide the territory with a promising source of income.

December 2012: Greenland has had an average net loss of 200 billion tons of ice every year since 2003link

May 2010: Weighing Greenland. Scott Luthcke, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, weighs Greenland, every 10 days. And the island has been losing weight, an average of 183 gigatons (or 200 cubic kilometers) in ice annually during the past six years. link

October 2017: Scientists mapping Greenland have produced some surprising – and worrying – results. Two new studies of Greenland, using sophisticated technologies and large scientific teams to pull together and process the data, have now gone further in taking the full measure of the island through that ever-so-basic scientific act: mapping. The first study concludes that the Greenland ice sheet is far more exposed to the planet’s warming oceans than previously known, and has more ice to give up than had been recognized. The researchers found that Greenland contains more total ice above sea level than previously thought – the entire ice mass is capable of raising sea levels by 24.3 feet. link

September 2016: Greenland sets record temperatures, ice melts early. Temperature records were broken in Greenland this year after parts of the territory’s vast ice sheet began melting unusually early. The average summer temperature was 8.2C in Tasiilaq on Greenland’s southeast coast, the highest since records began in 1895 and 2.3C above the average between 1981 and 2010. link

December 2016: Climate change’s effect on Greenland. Self-sufficiency in food may be a long way off but 70% of Greenland’s energy is now renewable hydropower from melt-fed rivers. Aleqa Hammond, the country’s former prime minister, speaks of 100% renewable energy, and attracting energy-hungry server farms, which companies such as Google and Facebook typically situate inside the Arctic Circle. According to the government’s Ministry of Mining Resources, Greenland’s first mines are expected to go into production in 2017. Other mining projects include a zinc mine and a rare earth elements mine, drilling for gold in Nuuk fjord, and “promising” exploratory drilling for a nickel-copper-cobalt mine. link

Ice loss increasing

November 2017: Greenland’s ice sheet Is melting from the bottom up. Significantly more ice in Greenland’s glaciers may be exposed to warming ocean waters than previously thought, new research suggests. Indeed, more than half the ice sheet may be subject to the melting influence of the sea. link  November 2017: New Greenland maps show more glaciers at risk. New maps of Greenland’s coastal seafloor and bedrock beneath its massive ice sheet show that two to four times as many coastal glaciers are at risk of accelerated melting as previously thought. link

September 2016: Greenland’s huge annual ice loss is even worse than thought. Precise new GPS data showed much of Greenland is rising far more rapidly than thought, up to 12mm a year. This means 19 cubic kilometres more ice is falling into the sea each year, an increase of about 8% on earlier figures. link

March 2016: Greenland’s ice getting darker, increasing risk of melting. Greenland’s snowy surface has been getting darker over the past two decades, absorbing more heat from the sun and increasing snow melt. That trend is likely to continue, with the surface’s reflectivity, or albedo, decreasing by as much as 10% by the end of the century according to a new study. While soot blowing in from wildfires contributes to the problem, it hasn’t been driving the change, the study finds. The real culprits are two feedback loops created by the melting itself. One of those processes isn’t visible to the human eye, but it is having a profound effect. link

July  2012: Unprecedented melting of Greenland’s ice sheet. The melting in July 2012 has stunned NASA scientists and has highlighted broader concerns that the region is losing a remarkable amount of ice overall. According to NASA,  about half of Greenland’s surface ice sheet naturally melts during an average summer. But the data from three independent satellites this July, analyzed by NASA and university scientists, showed that in less than a week, the amount of thawed ice sheet surface skyrocketed from 40% to 97%. In over 30 years of observations, satellites have never measured this amount of melting, which reaches nearly all of Greenland’s surface ice cover. (Above-  image taken July 8; at right July 12, just 4 days later.) link

December 2015: Greenland’s glaciers found to be melting on fast track. Greenland’s glaciers are retreating quickly, at least twice as fast as any other time in the past 9,500 years. link
August 2014: Greenland ice loss doubles from late 2000s – link
March 2012: Greenland ice sheet may melt completely with 1.6 degrees of global warming – link 
February 2010: Greenland’s glaciers disappearing from the bottom up – link

 Sea level rise

June 2017: Greenland now a major driver of rising seas. Ocean levels rose 50% faster in 2014 than in 1993, with meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet now supplying 25% of total sea level increase compared with just 5% 20 years earlier. While the UN science advisory body makes a very conservative projection of total sea level rise by the end of the century at 24 to 35 inches, it assumes that the rate at which ocean levels rise will remain constant, yet there is convincing evidence that the rate is actually increasing, and increasing exponentially. Greenland alone contains enough frozen water to lift oceans by about 23 feet. link

March 2014: Melting of last stable ice sheet in Greenland brings fears of faster sea level rise. Due to a rapid melting of the north-east corner of the Greenland ice sheet, long considered cold and stable, global sea levels may rise faster than anticipated. link