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Sound and independent information
on the environment

You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Greenland ice sheet

Greenland ice sheet

Note: new version is available!
Topics: ,

Update planned for February 2014 to include new results from the IPCC AR5

Contents
 

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Justification for indicator selection

The fate of the Greenland ice sheet highlights potentially major consequences of climate change as it is directly linked to global sea-level rise. The speed of ice loss, known as the ice sheet ‘mass balance’, is the most important indicator of ice sheet change. An increased rate of mass loss results in a faster rise in sea level. In addition, melt water from Greenland reduces 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:

Indicator definition

  • Estimated changes of the ice mass in Greenland
  • Yearly cumulated melt area of Greenland ice sheet

Units

  • Gigatonnes/year  (Gt/yr)
  • % change compared to 1979

Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2013 the European Commission presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/adaptation/what/documentation_en.htm). This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change /* COM/2013/0216 final */ and a number of supporting documents. One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which should occur through Bridging the knowledge gap and Further developing Climate-ADAPT as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Further objectives include Promoting action by Member States and Climate-proofing EU action: promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sectors. Many EU Member States have already taken action, such as by adopting national adaptation strategies, and several have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation.

The European Commission and the European Environment Agency have developed the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT, http://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/) to share knowledge on observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health; on relevant research; on EU, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans; and on adaptation case studies.

Targets

No targets have been specified.

Related policy documents

  • Climate-ADAPT: Mainstreaming adaptation in EU sector policies
    Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
  • Climate-ADAPT: National adaptation strategies
    Overview of activities of EEA member countries in preparing, developing and implementing adaptation strategies
  • DG CLIMA: Adaptation to climate change
    Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives later. This webportal provides information on all adaptation activities of the European Commission.
  • EU Adaptation Strategy Package
    In April 2013 the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change which has been welcomed by the EU Member States. The strategy aims to make Europe more climate-resilient. By taking a coherent approach and providing for improved coordination, it will enhance the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.

Key policy question

What is the trend in the mass and the melting area of the Greenland ice sheet , and what is the effect on global sea level?

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Estimates are based on the mass budget method based on a combination of the output from regional climate models and various satellite-borne datasets (altimetry and gravimetry data).

The graphs show the data as delivered by the authors of the referenced publications; a linear trend line was added.

Methodology for gap filling

Not applicable

Methodology references

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

Not applicable

Data sets uncertainty

Data on the cryosphere vary significantly with regard to availability and quality. Snow and ice cover have been monitored globally since satellite measurements started in the 1970s. Improvements in technology allow for more detailed observations and higher resolution. Direct historical area-wide data on the Greenland ice sheet tracks about 20 years, but reconstructions give a 200 000 year perspective.

Further information on uncertainties is provided in Section 1.7 of the EEA report on Climate change, impacts, and vulnerability in Europe 2012 (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/climate-impacts-and-vulnerability-2012/)


Rationale uncertainty

Not applicable

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

Ownership

European Environment Agency (EEA)

Identification

Indicator code
CLIM 009
Specification
Version id: 2
Primary theme: Climate change Climate change

Permalinks

Permalink to this version
e93dee693f354718bc18b262dc89d8ea
Permalink to latest version
7AUWEC35YT

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 1 year in October-December (Q4)

Classification

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

Related content

Data references used

Latest figures and vizualizations

Relevant policy documents

Geographical coverage

[+] Show Map

Document Actions

Comments

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