The Greenland Ice Sheet–The Facts v The Myths

Written by Paul Homewood


I came across the Statista website a while ago, as it had some useful graphics at the time, so I am now on their email address list. Each day they send a couple of random charts, with the hope I might subscribe!

They certainly seem a reliable outfit and offer a wide variety of stats, but today I received this from them:


For a company that prides itself in infographics, this disingenuous example is shocking.

The webpage it links to is little better:



The whole thing revolves around taking a handful of impressively big-sounding numbers out of context, then extrapolating them using dodgy assumptions.

The claim “enough water to cover Florida in five inches of water” is particularly fatuous, as it assumes that all of the extra water goes there!

I may not have a fancy art qualification to replicate their info chart, but here is what a proper Greenland factsheet should include:

1) Mass gains and losses of 12bn tonnes a day are not unusual. Over the year, the ice sheet grows by about 600bn tonnes in winter, and loses a similar amount in summer:


2) While billions of tonnes sounds like a lot of ice, the total Greenland ice cap contains roughly 2.6 million,  billion tonnes. To melt all of it at the current rate would take some 25000 years, by which time the next ice age would probably have started!


3) Sea levels have been steadily rising since the mid 19thC, at a rate of about 200mm per century. About 25mm of this has resulted from the melting of the Greenland icesheet.

According to official data from DMI, Greenland is currently contributing about 60mm of sea level rise per century. In other words an extra 35mm.


4) Temperatures in Greenland now are no higher than they were in the 1930s and 40s, a period when sea levels were rising just as fast as now. It is therefore likely that ice mass loss was as great then, although there were no satellites to monitor it.


5) For most of the last 10000 years, Greenland has been much warmer than present. The Little Ice Age, ending in the 19thC, was the coldest period since the end of the Ice Age.


In other words, forget the hype, and look at the facts instead!


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