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Greenland ice sheet

Indicator Specification Created 11 Jul 2008 Published 08 Sep 2008 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 06:59 PM
Note: new version is available!
Topics: ,
Indicator codes: CLIM 009

Update planned for November 2012

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection

The ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica contain 98-99 % of the freshwater ice on earth's surface. To illustrate their sizes, the volumes of the Antarctic and Greenlandic ice sheets are equivalent to a 57 and 7 m layer, respectively, of water on top of the world's oceans. When setting their upper estimate of a projected 59 cm sea-level rise by the end of this century, the IPCC did not take into account increased discharges into the ocean from the moving outlet glaciers of the ice sheets. The uncertainty about their future is therefore a main reason for uncertainties in projections of sea-level rise. The Greenland ice sheet is the most susceptible to warming because of its closeness to the Atlantic Ocean and other continents. But the more isolated Antarctica now also seems to be experiencing a net loss of ice, which may be accelerating (UNEP, 2007) (See indicator on sea-level rise. 
The speed of ice loss is important as well as its magnitude because a faster rise in sea level reduces the time available to take appropriate adaptation measures.
The melt water from Greenland will contribute to reducing the salinity of the surrounding ocean. An upper layer of fresher water may reduce the formation of dense deep water, one of the mechanisms driving global ocean circulation.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

  • Estimated changes of the ice mass in Greenland 1992-2006
  • Area of Greenland ice sheet melting 1979-2007


Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see:


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified


Methodology for indicator calculation

Methodology for gap filling

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

Data sets uncertainty

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Hans-Martin Füssel


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CLIM 009
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Climate change Climate change


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Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 4 years


DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
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