Sea ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean has decreased over the past decades. Both in extent, thickness and duration the ice is being reduced, which is increasing areas of open sea. The retreat of sea ice is expected to accelerate further and is likely to lead to ice free summers by the middle of this century.
Disappearing and unstable sea ice coverage has consequences for fishermen, hunters and other professions that are dependent on the sea ice for subsistence and affects navigability on the open sea. In addition, the sea ice retreat and larger areas with open water will lead to increasing heat absorption. This can accelerate the rise of surface and ocean temperatures in the area around Greenland and speed up the retreat of sea ice even further.
The extent of sea ice has great significance for living conditions in Greenland and is an important indicator of the processes of change expected in the arctic region in years to come. As a consequence, many researchers and research institutions are working to better understand the processes that influence the retreat of sea ice and to predict what sea ice coverage will look like in the future.
The Greenland Institute of Natural Resources monitors changes in the physical and chemical environment in Greenland and trends in the extent of sea ice through continuous surveillance. The Institute is the focal point for scientific research activity in the country with a special focus on the living resources of the sea.
The Greenland Climate Research Centre is involved in several projects that are working to improve the understanding of those processes that affect sea ice and its spread. In addition to sea ice, research is conducted into a number of different fields within the natural sciences and social sciences – often in collaboration with Danish and other foreign research institutions. Focus is on the expected effects of climate change on nature, the environment and society in Greenland.