Greenland Integrated Observing System

The purpose of Greenland Integrated Observing System (GIOS) is to develop a new research infrastructure providing a much-required sustained and long-term observation network of central climate, ecosystem and societal variables at a number of key sites around Greenland representing not only the entire Greenland but a climate gradient representing the Arctic as a whole.

GIOS will provide a much-needed data basis for understanding the present changes and provide input to international modelling efforts that are focused on understanding how changes within and around Greenland will influence global climate and living conditions for both Arctic communities and the population of the Northern Hemisphere. It will represent a major contribution from the Danish Realm towards the Arctic Council’s goals of a sustained Arctic observation program that can provide insight into the currently changing conditions and provide essential basic knowledge as foundation for informed decision-making and sustainable future development.

A network of permafrost monitoring stations

As part of the new GIOS monitoring infrastructure, DTU Civil Engineering will establish 6 new permafrost monitoring stations in West Greenland on a transect from Sisimiut to Kangerlussuaq. The area between Sisimiut and Kangerlussuaq is the widest non-glaciated region in West Greenland, it spans coastal and continental climates, and is uniquely situated on the border between areas with and without permafrost. It is therefore optimally chosen for long-term monitoring of regional changes in permafrost conditions. Data from the network will contribute to development of modelling tools to forecast permafrost changes in other parts of Greenland and the Arctic, it will be valuable as decision support for infrastructure development, and will contribute to validation of regional and global climate models. 

The extent and thermal state of permafrost impacts the mechanical properties of soil and rock, and a better understanding of these properties will therefore support the evaluation of risk of e.g. settlement damages to buildings and other infrastructure, and it can help understand changes in rock slope stability and predict rock falls. This knowledge may be used to optimize the design, construction and mainitenance practices of infrastructure in Greenland. The new monitoring effort will also increase our knowledge about snow properties and distribution, and contribute to evaluation of expected snow loads on buildings and constructions, as well as the avalanche risk around towns and settlements.

As part of the GIOS project, DTU Civil Engineering will establish a transect of permafrost monitoring stations from Sisimiut at the coast to Kangerlussuaq by the ice cap. The transect spans coastal and continental climates, and from sporadic (red) to continuous (blue) permafrost zones. (Station locations are tentative, formal permits have not yet been obtained; Permafrost zonation from Obu et al., 2019)

The new permafrost monitoring stations will consist of boreholes (up to 20 m deep) in sedimentary and bedrock settings, equipped with temperature sensors to monitor ground temperatures at multiple depths on an hourly basis. At each station, an automatic weather station will also monitor climate variables such as air temperatre, humidity, wind speed and direction, snow depth and long and short wave radiation. The combination of ground temperatures and climate variables will allow detailed regional modelling of permafrost distribution and changes, as well as provide insight into regional variation in snow cover and other parameters important for understanding the changes in terrestrial ecosystems and ground stability.

The transect will add an east-west component to the existing network (north-south) of permafrost monitoring stations in towns on the Greenland west coast. It will extend the international research station at Arcitc DTU Campus Sisimiut and provide a platform for developing additional monitoring and research activities in the region. It will also contribute to educational activities on the Arctic Civil Engineering and Cold Climate Engineering educations, as well as high school and professional educations in Sisimiut.

DTU Civil Engineering is currently operating a network of permafrost monitoring stations in towns on the Greenland west coast. Boreholes are up to 20 m deep, and most are instrumented with temperature loggers at multiple depths, which monitor ground temperatures on an hourly basis. The new transect will add an east-west axis to the current north-south oriented network.

The wider GIOS research infrastructure

Establishment of the permafrost monitoring network contributes to the wider purpose of GIOS to establish the most extensive network of automated monitoring stations in and around Greenland. The network will consist of monitoring equipment to measure conditions in the atmosphere, on the Greenland Ice Cap, in the terrestrial environment, in lakes, rivers and fiords, as well as profiling buoys that will measure physical, chemical and biological conditions in the marine environment. Airborne sensors will be used to monitor snow depths and sea ice thicknesses, and to supplement stationary weather stations that meteorological, geodetic and geomagnetic conditions, as well as the atmospheric content of green house gasses.

The research collaboration in GIOS is part of the development of a new Danish national roadmap for research infrastructure, which is expected to release a total investment of approximately 650 mio DKK ove the coming years. The Danish Agency for Higher Education and Science has awarded the GIOS project a total budget of approximately 37 mio DKK, and a similar amount is contributed by the involved institutions and other founding sources.

Contributing partners

Greenland Integrated Observing System is a collaboration between the Greenland Institute of Natural Ressources, Aarhus University, Copenhagen University, The Technical University of Denmark, GEUS, ASIAQ Greenland Survey, Aalborg University, DMI, the Joint Arctic Command, the University of Southern Denmark, the Nationalmuseum & Archive of Greenland, the National Museum, the University of Greenland and The Faroe Marine Research Institute.



Thomas Ingeman-Nielsen
DTU Sustain
45 25 22 51


Sona Tomaškovicová
DTU Sustain
45 25 50 98