Air pollution and its association with the greenland ice sheet melt

Kumar Vikrant, Eilhann E. Kwon, Ki Hyun Kim, Christian Sonne, Minsung Kang, Zang Ho Shon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) has been a topic of extensive scientific research over the past several decades due to the exponential increase in its melting. The relationship between air pollution and GrIS melting was reviewed based on local emission of air pollutants, atmospheric circulation, natural and anthropogenic forcing, and ground/satellite-based measurements. Among multiple factors responsible for accelerated ice melting, greenhouse gases have long been thought to be the main reason. However, it is suggested that air pollution is another piece of the puzzle for this phenomenon. In particular, black carbon (BC) and other aerosols emitted anthropogenically interact with clouds and ice in the Arctic hemisphere to shorten the cloud lifespan and to change the surface albedo through alteration of the radiative balance. The presence of pollution plumes lowers the extent of super cooling required for cloud freezing by about 4C, while shortening the lifespan of clouds (e.g., by altering their free-energy barrier to prompt precipitation). Since the low-level clouds in the Arctic are 2–8 times more sensitive to air pollution (in terms of the radiative/microphysical properties) than other regions in the world, the melting of the GrIS can be stimulated by the reduction in cloud stability induced by air pollution. In this study, we reviewed the possible impact of air pollution on the melting of the GrIS in relation to meteorological processes and emission of light-absorbing impurities. Long-term variation of ground-based AERONET aerosol optical depth in Greenland supports the potential significance of local emission and long-range transport of air pollutants from Arctic circle and continents in the northern hemisphere in rapid GrIS melting trend.

Original languageEnglish
Article number65
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Air pollution
  • Climate change
  • Cloud stability
  • Greenland ice melt
  • Meteorology


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