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Dataset - Greenland Surface Mass Balance

van den Broeke, M.R. (2011). Greenland Surface Mass Balance. (v1) Utrecht, the Netherlands. Part of Runs for Eemian and pre-industrial times. Published by IMAU, Utrecht University.
Please use the citation above when using this dataset. Download as: BibTex or RIS


Model data, RACMO2


The Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) contains enough water to raise global sea level by about 7 m. Recent research shows that melt water that has formed at the ice sheet surface drains to the bed of the glacier, accelerating the ice flow. As a result, the glacier thins, the surface lowers, melting increases and the cycle starts anew. This positive feedback between surface climate and ice dynamics is part of the mounting evidence that large ice volumes such as the GrIS could react much faster to a change in climate than has been assumed thus far. In spite of the potential threat this poses for low-lying countries such as the Netherlands, it is still unknown whether the GrIS is growing or shrinking under the present climate conditions and how it has contributed to sea level change in the past and will contribute to sea level change in the future.

A crucial boundary condition for the accurate modelling of past, present and future volume changes of the GrIS is the surface mass balance, comprising the sum of all mass fluxes towards (solid precipitation) and away (melt, sublimation, erosion) from the ice sheet surface. Because reliable GrIS surface mass balance fields are not available, we do not know the volume of the GrIS and its contribution to sea level changes during the previous interglacial (the Eemian, 125,000 years ago) or during the last glacial maximum (LGM, some 21,000 years ago), nor can we predict with any certainty how the GrIS will behave in a (future) enhanced greenhouse climate.

In this project, the surface mass balance of the GrIS will be modelled for these key periods in the past and future. By using a regional atmospheric climate model (RACMO2), driven at the boundaries by state-of-the-art atmospheric general circulation models, this can be done at unprecedented high resolution (18 km) to match the typical resolution of ice dynamical models. Another big advantage of using a meteorological model is the availability of spatially and temporally realistic melt fluxes to study the interaction with ice dynamics. With results from this research we will be able to hindcast and predict the changes in the volume of the GrIS with much improved accuracy and with that its contribution to past and future changes in global sea level.

Temporal coverage


1 August 2006 to 31 July 2010

Data resolution

Latitude resolution

18 km

Longitude resolution

18 km

Horizontal resolution range

10 Km - < 50 Km Or Approximately .09 Degree - < .5 Degree

Vertical resolution

0.065 m - 4 m (typical 35 levels) in snow

Vertical resolution range

1 Meter - < 10 Meters

Temporal resolution

6 hr

Temporal resolution range

Hourly - < Daily

Originating center

Utrecht University, Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht (IMAU)



No files

Dataset progress

in work

Data quality

The model RACMO2 has been tested and checked against current climate data and it is used to evaluate the current climate in Greenland resulting in several publications. Model data for the Eemian were tested in 1 publication (see the list of publications).

Access constraints

No constraints

Use constraints

Contact the author / data center to request data


TitleFunding idPeriod


Ettema, J., van den Broeke, M.R., et al., 2010. Climate of the Greenland ice sheet using a high-resolution climate model-Part 1: Evaluation. The Cryosphere 4 (4), 511

van den Broeke, M.R., Bamber, J.L., et al., 2009. Partitioning Recent Greenland Mass Loss. Science 326 (5955), 984-986

Ettema, J., van den Broeke, M.R., et al., 2009. Higher surface mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet revealed by high-resolution climate modeling. Geophysical Research Letters 36 (12)

Kaspar, F., Kühl, N., et al., 2005. A model-data comparison of European temperatures in the Eemian interglacial. Geophysical Research Letters 32 (11)


Regional modeling of Greenland surface mass balance for key episodes in the past and future (Eemian, pre-industrial)

Dif id: Modelling_Arctic_Glaciers_VDBroeke_IPY37_NL | UUID: aad36603-4a47-5a05-9c80-a5df50fb001a | Version:1 | Added on: 22 February 2010 11:30