Observed meteorological data and a high-resolution (5 km) model were used to simulate Greenland ice sheet surface melt extent and trends before the satellite era (1960–79) and during the satellite era through 2010°. The model output was compared with passive microwave satellite observations of melt extent. For 1960–2010 the average simulated melt extent was 15 ± 5%. For the period 1960–72, simulated melt extent decreased by an average of 6%, whereas 1973–2010 had an average increase of 13%, with record melt extent in 2010. The trend in simulated melt extent since 1972 indicated that the melt extent in 2010 averaged twice that in the early 1970s. The maximum and mean melt extents for 2010 were 52% (∼9.5 × 105 km2) and 28% (∼5.2 × 105 km2), respectively, due to higher-than-average winter and summer temperatures and lower-than-average winter precipitation. For 2010, the southwest Greenland melt duration was 41–60 days longer than the 1960–2010 average, while the northeast Greenland melt duration was up to 20 days shorter. From 1960 to 1972 the melting period (with a >10% melt extent) decreased by an average of 3 days a−1. After 1972, the period increased by an average of 2 days a−1, indicating an extended melting period for the ice sheet of about 70 days: 40 and 30 days in spring and autumn, respectively.