Greenland precipitation trends in a long-term instrumental climate context (1890-2012): Evaluation of coastal and ice core records

Sebastian H. Mernild*, Edward Hanna, Joseph R. Mcconnell, Michael Sigl, Andrew P. Beckerman, Jacob C. Yde, John Cappelen, Jeppe K. Malmros, Konrad Steffen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Here, we present an analysis of monthly, seasonal, and annual long-term precipitation time-series compiled from coastal meteorological stations in Greenland and Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) ice cores (including three new ice core records from ACT11D, Tunu2013, and Summit2010). The dataset covers the period from 1890 to 2012, a period of climate warming. For approximately the first decade of the new millennium (2001-2012) minimum and maximum mean annual precipitation conditions are found in Northeast Greenland (Tunu2013 c. 120mm water equivalent (w.e.) year-1) and South Greenland (Ikerasassuaq: c. 2300mm w.e. year-1), respectively. The coastal meteorological stations showed on average increasing trends for 1890-2012 (3.5mm w.e. year-2) and 1961-2012 (1.3mm w.e. year-2). Years with high coastal annual precipitation also had a: (1) significant high number of precipitation days (r2 = 0.59); and (2) high precipitation intensity measured as 24-h precipitation (r2 = 0.54). For the GrIS the precipitation estimated from ice cores increased on average by 0.1mm w.e. year-2 (1890-2000), showing an antiphase variability in precipitation trends between the GrIS and the coastal regions. Around 1960 a major shift occurred in the precipitation pattern towards wetter precipitation conditions for coastal Greenland, while drier conditions became more prevalent on the GrIS. Differences in precipitation trends indicate a heterogeneous spatial distribution of precipitation in Greenland. An Empirical Orthogonal Function analysis reveals a spatiotemporal cycle of precipitation that is linked instantaneously to the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and with an ∼6 years lag time response to the Greenland Blocking Index.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)303-320
Publication statusPublished - 1. Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate
  • Greenland
  • Ice core
  • Observations
  • Precipitation
  • Weather stations


Dive into the research topics of 'Greenland precipitation trends in a long-term instrumental climate context (1890-2012): Evaluation of coastal and ice core records'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this