The Arctic: Danish Scientists give a status report for 2016

The state of the Greenland ice sheet and Arctic sea ice this season have been summarised in the Polar Portal annual report.

Over the course of 2016, scientists have observed and measured changes on the Greenland ice sheet and in the Arctic sea ice. At the end of this year’s melt season it’s now time to give a status report.

“If we look at the Greenland ice sheet, melting in 2016 has been very similar to what we have seen on average since the turn of the millennium,” said climate scientist Martin Stendel from DMI and Polar Portal chief coordinator.

In the period 2003-2016 the Greenland ice sheet lost on average around 268 gigatonnes of ice (268 billion tonnes) each year. This change has been measured with data from the GRACE satellites. 

In this tweet from the Department Head and Chief Advisor in the Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate, Thomas Egebo says “2500Gt in 10 years is a lot. It’s roughly a layer of ice 60 metres thick over the whole of Denmark”.

“If we look at sea ice there has also been a similar development” said Martin Stendel.
”Each year the amount of sea ice is quite variable, but measured over many years we can see that the area covered by sea ice has declined markedly overall.”

The length of time when the Arctic Ocean is covered by ice has been reduced by 3 weeks since the end of the 1970s and at the sea ice minimum in September each year, the area covered by sea ice has shrunk by an area twice the size of Denmark.

The season report for 2016 has other important conclusions:

·        Early melting of the Greenland ice sheet due to record warm temperatures in Greenland.

·        Largest loss of glacier area in Greenland since 2012

·        High, but not record high melt season in Greenland  

·        The albedo (the surface reflectivity) of the ice sheet was the 5th lowest on record in 2016 in a 17 year record

·        Arctic sea ice extent was very close to the lowest on record, but was not quite a new record at the minimum.

·        Data to calculate the total amount of ice lost over 2016 is not yet available

Read more on the state of the Arctic in the season report, available in DanishEnglish and Greenlandic Polar Portal and the annual report are collaboration between DMI, GEUS, DTU-Space and DTU-Byg with funding from the Danish Energy Agency (Energistyrelsen).

Martin Stendel can be contacted by DMI’s media telephone number on 39 15 75 09, twitter @MartinStendel or email to Polar Portal is also on Twitter: @PolarPortal and Facebook: