How will the Earth’s climate respond to future changes in sea ice and snow cover? GREENICE (Impacts of sea ice and snow cover changes on climate, green growth and society) aims to address this key uncertainty in the northern hemisphere climate system and thereby provide knowledge relevant for the welfare and green growth of northern communities.

The spate of recent extreme weather events over the extra-tropical Northern Hemisphere, including winter cold snaps and summer heat waves, were linked to the dramatic loss of sea ice and warming occurring in the Arctic, and to increases in Eurasian autumn and winter snow cover. Most of these changes in the cryosphere are likely to be a result of global warming, and thus may accelerate. Although observational, theoretical, and modelling studies indicate that the sea-ice and snow-cover changes have a significant impact on the large-scale atmospheric circulation and weather extremes, controversy exists regarding the magnitude of these impacts and their underlying mechanisms.

By means of a thorough analysis of observations and coordinated experiments with global and regional atmospheric models, GREENICE will improve our understanding of the atmospheric response to sea-ice and snow-cover changes and our ability to predict both anthropogenic and naturally-driven changes on 10-30 year timescales.

By using case studies, GREENICE will assess vulnerability and resilience factors for specific communities, and evaluate culturally and contextually appropriate measures for effective adaptation to predicted future climate changes associated with sea-ice and snow-cover changes. GREENICE results will benefit private and public industry in the areas of renewable energy, e.g., hydropower and wind, but also non-renewable energy and shipping sectors that are moving to exploit an ice-free arctic.

Project Goals

  • Assess and reduce uncertainties in the quantitative description of the interaction between climate change and the cryosphere, focusing on the impact of sea-ice and snow-cover changes on large-scale atmospheric circulation and weather extremes.

  • Provide better constrained predictions of near-term (10-30 year) changes in Northern Hemisphere climate and associated weather extremes, by using improved knowledge and atmospheric models driven by projected Arctic sea-ice and Northern Hemisphere snow-cover changes.

  • Share research results concerning the uncertainties of Northern Hemisphere climate change with stakeholders and northern communities, and integrate and relate knowledge of potential impacts in terms of key economic and social factors relevant to the welfare and sustainable development of these communities and the Nordic region.

  • Better understand the present and historical adaptation of Arctic communities to rapid weather, sea-ice and resource-governance events, and to include local experience-based knowledge-holders in dialogue with researchers and stakeholders.

Role of SMHI

In GREENICE, SMHI is involved in:

WP1 - Impact of cryosphere changes on the large-scale atmospheric circulation – and contributes to coordinated sensitivity experiments with the EC-Earth atmosphere models to understand the impact of sea ice trend and variations on mid-latitude climate;

WP 2 -  Improved predictions of changes in the NH climate over the coming decades, where the impact of uncertainties in future sea ice and sea surface temperature in the CMIP5 model simulations for the future climate is investigated by performing coordinated multi-model experiments with the GREENICE atmosphere models;

and WP3 - Understanding the relation between climate change in the cryosphere and intensity of the extreme events in mid- and high-latitudes- where SMHI contributes with regional model simulations to investigate extreme events in mid and high latitudes and improve the representation of sea ice.

Project partners

GREENICE is coordinated by Noel Keenlyside from the University of Bergen. The partnership includes 9 partners from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Russia, including climate and social scientists, and stakeholders from the hydroelectric sector. The complete list of partners can be found here.


GREENICE is funded by NordForsk, Top-level Research Initiative, Project n. 61841.


GREENICE will run from 2014 to 2017, including an extension: project TRACE.

Contact person

Torben Königk