A Report on North Greenland

By: Alyna, Avika, Chehak, Deepanshi, 

Dilnawaz, Myra, Radhika, Tamanna - India

Kalaallit Nunaat – ‘land of the People’ 

Greenland is officially the world’s largest island that is not a continent. Greenland is an island autonomous territory of Denmark. Greenland is the world's largest island. It is one of the three countries that form the Kingdom of Denmark, the others being Denmark and the Faroe Islands; the citizens of all three countries are citizens of Denmark and the European Union. The capital and largest city of Greenland is Nuuk. The area of Greenland is approximately 2.175 million Sq. Kms. Around 80% of the Greenland is covered with ice. After Antarctica, the Greenland ice sheet is the largest in the world. It is the home of many glaciers. There are only two seasons: cold summer and extreme cold winter. Average temperature in winter is below -10ᵒC and in summers it is 10ᵒC.

Why study Greenland?

Greenland is important for sustenance of life on planet earth.

Greenland ice sheet hold enormous amount of fresh water which if released has the capacity to raise the sea level by several metres which in turn can submerge the coastal areas around the world.

According to researches, the scientists estimated that the ice sheets would melt completely by the year 3000 with the present state of global warming. Greenland sheets are melting very fast in past few decades. Every 400 billion water adding to the sea due to the melting of these sheets raise the level of sea by 1mm. As a general rule every cm in global sea level rise, more than 6 million people are exposed to coastal flooding and major land area are submerged into water.

Secondly the ice water is fresh water and when it is added to sea, it changes the salinity, density and even temperature of sea water posing a threat to marine life.

Also added fresh water changes the way how sea water moves through the globe in the form of oceanic currents which in turn affect the atmosphere which influences air temperature, humidity, precipitation winds etc. Earth is a closed system where materials cycle between lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. Changes in any part of it influences others as well.

Ice sheets play an important role in regulating earth’s temperature. Ice sheets reflects back the solar energy. Snowflakes reflect 80% of solar energy falling on it whereas condensed ice sheets reflect 40-50% of it. This reflection helps to cool earth.

Libecki fills his water bottle from an iceberg’s pool of melted water. Despite floating in saltwater, icebergs that break off from a glacier contain freshwater.   

Paddleboarding and kayaking are two of the most common ways for individuals to get close-up views of surrounding icebergs. 

How are climatic changes affecting Greenland?

Losing balance:

According to the scientists Greenland ice sheets have experienced unprecedented ice loss in 21st century due to global warming. 

In the natural process there is a mass balance between the fresh input of snow and mass lost due to melting, ablation or iceberg calving.

If this natural process continues and the balance is maintained between input and output, there is no threat to Greenland. But scientist have found that due to global warming the output process has accelerated many folds. Greenland ice sheet is losing four times faster than it was in 2003. Also there have been events of extreme melting in 2012 and 2019.

Self-reinforcing loop:

In normal course, parts of Greenland melt every summer. Blue lakes and gushing rives of melt water dot the ice surface. But usually the loss of melt is balanced by snowfall. As fresh snow is much more reflective, it lowers the solar radiations. Whereas the older snow and melt water is darker and thus absorb more heat radiations which melt the ice further. It becomes like a feed loop.

Due to global warming the melting days are increasing and more such feedback loops are being set up throughout Greenland.

A stand-up paddleboarder cuts through the frigid waters of the Greenland Sea. PHOTOGRAPH BY KEITH LADZINSKI

A stand-up paddleboarder cuts through the frigid waters of the Greenland Sea. PHOTOGRAPH BY KEITH LADZINSK

Surface melting of ice sheets accelerates the loss of ice in more than one ways

Firstly, the melted water in the ponds/ lakes formed on the surface crack the ice sheets beneath and move through the cracks to the surface. These cracks are called Moulin. This water provides lubrication between the ice sheets and land. Thus it increases the speed with which these rivers of ice move and part of which come in direct contact with ocean and falls into it. Secondly, the melted water at the surface runs off towards the ocean with great speed.

High rates of meltwater discharge combined with a thick and gently sloping ice sheet in Western Greenland gives rise to monster holes like this moulin. Alun Hubbard

Just off the western coast of the island, Ilulissat Icefjord has the largest collection of icebergs in Greenland. In 2004, the area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.PHOTOGRAPH BY KEITH LADZINSKI

Does this look like Greenland to you? 

These researchers are studying a lake on top of the Greenland ice sheet. Lakes like this one are becoming increasingly common as warmer temperatures cause melting on the surface of the ice sheet.
Joughin/UW Polar Science Center 

Significance of the study

As global warming is increasing at an alarming rate, it is impacting the Greenland ice sheets very badly. There are episodes of extreme melt events especially in 2012 and 2019. These events are causing irreversible damage to the ice sheets. The ice sheets melting have increased by alarming rates. Researchers are trying hard to study and figure it out. This study is and attempt to support them with observation of the lakes/ ponds formed during summer of 2019 using satellite imagery

Objectives of study

A fisherman casts a line off southeastern Greenland’s shore. The island’s rivers and lakes are fertile spots for arctic char, Atlantic wolffish, and salmon.


More frequently found on the eastern coast of the island, polar bears are known as tornassuk—the master of helping spirits by the Inuit people. 

Remote cirques, narrow fjords, and sweeping valleys form the perfect backdrop for outdoor adventures such as hiking, snowshoeing, and ice climbing. 



The researchers made 460 observations during June 5, June 20, July 20 and August.

Table 1 show that on June 5, 2019 only 8 lakes were observed. There were no frozen lakes or dry bed lakes in these observations. Rest of the observations showed plain surface.

Observations of June 20

Table 2: Observations of June 20 relating to lakes formed in North Greenland

Table 2 show that on June 20 the observed lakes were only 208 or 45% of the total observed during the four dates and there was only one frozen lake which is nearly 0% of the total observed. 

There were 251 (55%) observations showing plain surface. Further analyzing the data, it was found that 8 lakes formed on June 5 do still persist and 200 new lakes were formed from June 5 to June 20. No dry bed lakes were formed.The formation of 200 new lakes during the span of 15 days indicates high speed of melting ice sheets in the North Greenland region.

Observations of July 20

Table 3: Observations of July 20 relating to lakes formed in North Greenland

Table 3 shows that on July 20 the total lakes formed were 381 (83%). Total of 16 (3%) frozen lakes were observed. Out of 16, 15  lakes of June 20 got frozen, one frozen lake is formed from plain ice sheet.. 57 (12%) lakes formed during June 20 turned to dry bed lakes. And only 7 (2%) of the total observation showed plain surface of ice sheets. 

The further analysis shows that out of 381 lakes, 8 lakes observed on June 5 still existed on July 20. Out of 200 new lakes observed on June 20, 127 lakes were still present on July 20. 245 new lakes were formed on July 20. One frozen Lake formed on June 20 again turned to lake. Out of 73 new lakes formed on July 20, 15 lakes turned to frozen lakes and 57 lakes turned to dry bed lakes. Formation of 173 new lakes on July 20 again highlights the role of melting ice sheets due to rise in temperature. 

Even persistence of 8 lakes since June 5 further confirms the role of increasing temperature in this region. Conversion of 15 lakes to frozen lakes, presence of only 7 plain ice sheets and 57 lakes turning to dry beds make it clear that the process of ice formation has slowed down.

Table 4 shows that total lakes during the month of August’ 2019 were 302 (66%), Frozen Lakes were 35 (7%),  Dry bed Lakes were (69%) and plain ice surface were 54 (12%). Out of 302 lakes in the month of august 5 new lakes were formed, one frozen lake got converted to lake and 231 lakes formed during the month of July remained as lake in August also.

5 lakes  formed during June 5 still exist as lakes in August, 59 Lakes formed in June 20 still exists as lakes in August and one lake formed in july from frozen lake (June 20) also exist as lake in August.

35 frozen lakes were formed form either pre- existing lakes or someof them existed as frozen lake in earlier observation. Only 2 lakes formed during June 5 got converted to dry bed lakes and 59 lakes formed during June 20 got converted to dry bed lakes and 8 lakes formed during the Month of July got converted to dry bed lakes.

Out of 54 Plain ice surface, one lake formed during June 5 remained as lake till July and in august turned to Plain ice surface. 18 lakes formed during June 20 also turned to plain ice surface. 34 lakes formed during June 20 got converted to dry bed lakes in July and finally plain ice surface in August.