Climate Change

How the Greenland ice sheet fared in 2021

The Greenland ice sheet lost around 166bn tonnes of ice over the 12-month period ending in August 2021. Image: Wikicommons/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA

Dr Ruth Mottram

Climate Scientist, Danish Meteorological Institute

Dr Martin Stendel

Climate Scientist, DMI

Prof Jason Box

Ice Climatologist , Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS)

Dr Kenneth D Mankoff

Senior Scientist, GEUS

Dr Andreas Ahlstrøm

Senior Scientist, GEUS


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Left: Map showing the difference between the annual SMB in 2010-21 and the 1981-2010 period (in mm of ice melt). Blue shows more ice gain than average and red shows more ice loss than average. Right: Daily (upper chart) and cumulative (lower) SMB of the Greenland ice sheet, in billion tonnes per day, and billion tonnes, respectively. Blue lines show 2020-21 SMB year; the grey lines show the 1981-2010 average; and the red line in lower chart shows the record low SMB year of 2011-12. Image: DMI Polar Portal.

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Map showing cool, wet summer weather in Greenland (in centre of map) and the extreme heat over North America. Shading indicates temperatures that are warmer (red) or cooler (blue) than the long-term average for the time of year. The arrows show the circulation patterns in the atmosphere. Image: DMI Polar Portal
Top: Map showing areas of Greenland undergoing surface melt on 28 July 2021 (shaded red). Bottom: Chart showing percentage of ice sheet area seeing surface melt on each day of 2021 (blue line), ending on the 28 July. The grey line shows the 1981-2010 average. Image: DMI Polar Portal.

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Sermeq Kujalleq on 22 August 2021, taken from ESA Sentinel-2 image processed in the shortwave and infrared bands on Sentinel Hub. The glacier accelerated and calved significantly in 2020-21, losing around 45Gt of ice. Image: Modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2021/Sentinel Hub.

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Climate ChangeClimate IndicatorsClimate Breakthroughs 2021Future of the Environment


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