Melting Greenland Ice Sheets: An Urgent Call to Action 

A Report on South Greenland

By: Amisha, Anay, Eklavyajeet, Garv, Ishaan, Mehreet, Sahibb, Samardeep - India 

Picture credit: Robert Swan 


Robert Swan, the first man to walk to both the poles, had said, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.

” It was, it is, and it will always be our job to rescue this planet and its ecosystems that we inhabit and exploit for our leisure and desires.

Why study Greenland?

Greenland is an island autonomous territory of Denmark in North America. It lies between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. It is one of three countries that form the Kingdom of Denmark, the others being Denmark and the Faroe Islands. The capital and largest city of Greenland is Nuuk. 

Greenland is the world’s largest island, spanning an area of approximately 2.2 million square kilometres. Despite its name, the island does not possess much greenery; instead, it is dominated by a vast ice sheet covering about 80% of its landmass. Beyond the ice, Greenland's landscapes are dotted with glaciers, towering icebergs, fjords, and snow-capped mountains. 

Preserving Greenland's unique natural beauty, cultural heritage, and environment requires collective efforts and global cooperation. As we explore this enigmatic land, let us be reminded of our responsibility to protect and conserve such precious treasures for generations to come. Only through sustainable practices and a deep sense of reverence for nature can we ensure that Greenland's allure remains intact for eternity. 

Why is there a need to study about Greenland?

The Greenland ice sheet melting crisis is a pressing environmental issue that has garnered significant attention in recent years. As one of the largest bodies of ice on Earth, the Greenland ice sheet plays a crucial role in regulating global climate patterns and sea levels. However, due to the effects of climate change, this massive ice sheet is undergoing a rapid and alarming meltdown, with far-reaching consequences for both the environment and human civilization.


The Greenland ice sheet is an immense mass of ice covering approximately 1.7 million square kilometres, which is roughly 80% of the total land area of Greenland. This ice sheet is second only to the Antarctic ice sheet in terms of its size, holding a staggering volume of ice. It contains an estimated 2.9 million cubic kilometres of ice, equivalent to around 7.2% of the world's total freshwater reserves which if not stopped from melting can result in sea level rising by half a metre by 2041. This would cause 1/10th of the human shoreline to submerge under water and put 80 crore people at risk.

Why are the Greenland ice- sheets melting?

The primary driver behind the Greenland ice sheet's melting crisis is anthropogenic climate change, largely attributed to the excessive emission of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, into the Earth's atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and various industrial activities have significantly contributed to the rising concentrations of these greenhouse gases, leading to a rise in global temperatures which in turn results in the melting of ice sheets.

How are climatic changes affecting Greenland? 

The most immediate and visible impact of the melting Greenland ice sheet is the rising sea levels. As the ice melts, the resulting water flows into the oceans, contributing to the global sea level rise. This poses a severe threat to coastal communities, low-lying islands, and major cities situated near coastlines worldwide. Even a relatively modest increase in sea levels can lead to devastating consequences, including increased coastal erosion, loss of habitat, saltwater intrusion into freshwater sources, and an increased frequency of storm surges. 

The melting of the Greenland ice sheet also exacerbates the global warming crisis by creating a positive feedback loop. As the ice sheet melts, the exposed dark surfaces of land and water absorb more solar radiation, further warming the region. This additional warming then accelerates the melting process, causing a vicious cycle of more ice loss and increased warming.

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

The influx of cold freshwater from the melting ice sheet into the North Atlantic can disrupt ocean currents, such as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). This circulation pattern plays a critical role in redistributing heat around the globe, influencing weather patterns and climate stability. If the AMOC weakens or collapses due to increased freshwater input, it could have profound and unpredictable impacts on regional and global climate systems. 


The Greenland ice sheet is home to a unique ecosystem, hosting a variety of plant and animal species adapted to the extreme conditions. The rapid melting of the ice sheet threatens the survival of these species, leading to potential biodiversity loss. Furthermore, the release of trapped organic matter and pollutants from melting ice can further impact marine and terrestrial ecosystems, disrupting delicate ecological balances. 


The consequences of the Greenland ice sheet melting crisis extend beyond environmental concerns. Rising sea levels and increased frequency of extreme weather events can result in the displacement of millions of people living in coastal regions. Climate refugees may face numerous challenges, including finding new homes, loss of livelihoods, and conflicts over scarce resources, exacerbating existing social and political tensions.


The Greenland ice sheet melting crisis is an urgent global issue with wide-ranging implications. Its impacts extend far beyond the immediate region, affecting global climate patterns, sea levels, biodiversity, and human populations. Urgent action is needed to mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to minimize the devastating consequences of the melting Greenland ice sheet and preserve the integrity of our planet. 

Significance of the study:

With the increase in global warming, the Greenland ice sheets have been melting at an alarming rate. Researchers are trying to study and figure out the consequences of such a rapid ice melt. This study is an attempt to support them by taking observations of lakes/ponds formed in the summer of 2019 using satellite imagery. The collected data plays a vital role in training AI models to accurately simulate and predict the behavior of the Greenland ice sheet. By incorporating the latest data into these models, researchers can improve their ability to project future melting rates and better understand the complex dynamics of ice sheet mass loss. Enhanced climate models enable policymakers, stakeholders, and communities to make informed decisions regarding adaptation strategies, infrastructure planning, and risk assessments. One of the critical aspects of the research paper is its potential to raise awareness about the significance of Greenland's environmental changes. By disseminating the research findings, the paper can engage a broader audience, including the scientific community, policymakers, environmental organizations, and the general public. Spreading awareness can lead to increased public understanding, support for environmental conservation efforts, and collective action towards addressing climate change.

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. 


Objectives of study


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

Table 1 shows that on June 5 out of 420 observations, there were 369 lakes and 51 Plain ice surfaces.

Observations of June 20

Table 2 shows that on June 20 out of 420 observations there were 235 lakes, 2 frozen lakes, 152 dry bed lakes and 31 plain ice surfaces.

Out of 235 lakes, 46 were newly formed whereas 189 lakes already existed on June 5.

Two frozen lakes observed on June 20 were lakes on June 5.

Further it has been observed that, 152 lakes existing on June 5 had been converted into dry bed lakes on June 20.

Further it was observed that there were 31 plain ice surfaces on June 20. Out of 31 plain ice surfaces 26 were lakes as observed on June 5. Rest of the plain ice surfaces of June 5, still persisted as plain ice surfaces on June 20. 

Observations of July 19

Table 3 shows that there were 63 lakes, 4 frozen lakes, 330 dry bed lakes and 23 plain ice surfaces observed  on July 19.

 Out of 63 lakes existing on July 19, 40 lakes persisted since June 5, 16 lakes were those which were formed on June 20, 2 lakes formed from dry bed lakes of june 20 and 5 new lakes were formed on this day.

For 23 plain ice surfaces existing on July 19, 7 plain ice surfaces persisted since June 20. These 7 plain ice surfaces were lakes on June 5. 14 plain ice surfaces were dry bed lakes on June 20 which got converted from lakes existing on June 5. Two plain ice surfaces were lakes on June 5 and June 20.

Out of four frozen lakes existing on July 19, two were already frozen since June 20 and two were lakes since June 5.

Rest of 330 observations showed dry bed lakes on July 19. Out of these 330 observations, 175 were lakes since June 20, 136 were dry bed lakes since June 20 and 19 were plain ice surfaces since June 20.

On August 19, out of 420 observations there were 19 lakes, 142 plain ice surfaces, 242 dry bed lakes and 17 frozen lakes.

Out of 19 lakes observed on August 19, there were 18 lakes since July 19 and one was dry bed lake since July 19.

For 142 plain ice surfaces observed on this date, 5 were plain ice surfaces since June 20, 15 were plain ice surfaces since July 19, 116 were dry bed lakes on July19, 3 were frozen lakes on July 19 and 3 were lakes since June 5.

For 242 dry bed lakes observed on August 19, 212 were dry bed lakes observed on July 19, 27 were lakes on July 19 and 3 were plain ice surfaces on July 19.

For 17 frozen lakes observed on August 19, 15 were lakes, 1 was dry bed lake and again one was frozen lake on July 19.


Table 5: Comparison of features of South Greenland formed on 4 different dates

If we analyze the data of South Greenland from June 5 to August 19, it is seen that number of lakes observed from June 5 to August 19 decreased from 369 on June 5 to 19 on August 19, plain ice surfaces decreased form 51 on June 5 to 23 on July 19 and then increased to 142 on August 19.

There were no frozen lakes observed on June 5 but 2 frozen lakes were observed on June 20, 4 on July 19 and increased to 17 on August 19. No dry bed lakes were observed on June 5, 152 dry bed lakes were observed on June 20 and the number doubled (330) on July 19. Again number of dry bed lakes decreased to 242 on August 19.

Probable reason may be that there may be certain latitudes in South Greenland where temperature goes on decreasing from June 5  to August 19 leading to increasing number of frozen lakes. Not only that, lakes got converted to Plain ice surfaces and the number goes on increasing from June 5 to August 19.

The data also reflected that some areas of South Greenland are observing higher temperature and also variation in temperature from June 5 to August 19 leading to conversion of higher number of lakes to dry bed lakes and again dry bed lakes converting to plain ice surfaces from July 19 to August 19. This shows that temperature might have increased from June 5 to July 19 and then starts decreasing from July 19 to August 19.