Greenland’s northernmost point is just 708 km away from the North Pole and forms part of the Arctic Circle. While the noun Arctic refers to that geographical area, ‘arctic’ is also widely recognised as an adjective to describe something as ‘extremely cold’. With that in mind, Greenland’s climate can definitely be described as arctic.
However, it’s a bit more complicated than simply how far north a country is. Some of the following factors mean that Greenland’s climate often doesn’t feel as cold as the mercury in the thermometer might suggest.
Here are five interesting facts about the climate of Greenland.
The North of Greenland gets very little snow
Greenland is covered by 1.8 million square kilometres of ice, accounting for more than 80% of its landmass, but the land at its northernmost point is actually free from ice. This area is a peninsula called Peary Land and lacks an ice sheet because dry air means snowfall is too low to maintain one. It’s considered a polar desert and even during the last ice age it wasn’t covered in glaciers.
Lack of humidity in Greenland makes the climate warmer
A lack of moisture in the air can make cold weather feel warmer. There are further benefits to Greenland’s low humidity: you’ll be able to see distant landscapes more clearly. And the air quality is said to be among the best in the world. So, a trip to Greenland could quite literally be a breath of fresh air.
The timing of your Greenland trip should depend on your plans
Choosing when to visit Greenland depends on what you’d like to do when you get there. Greenland experiences 24 hours of sunlight during the summer, this phenomenon is known as the midnight sun. In contrast, during the winter months some areas experience several days with no sunlight at all.
The summer months, with long days under the midnight sun, are best for activities like hiking and sailing; they’re also the optimum time for a spot of whale watching. The winter’s best for those looking to take part in snowy activities like dog sledding. If you want to go searching for the Northern lights, you’ll need to visit between September and March.
The climate of Greenland experiences highs and lows
The lowest temperature ever observed in Greenland was a freezing -66 degrees Celsius in the 1950s. Greenland recently managed to set a record for the coldest July temperature, with -33 degrees Celsius recorded in 2017. More southern settlements have, however, recently reached giddy heights during the summer, with Nuuk reaching 24 degrees Celsius in June 2016.
Climate change has revealed a new island off the coast of Greenland
An ice sheet off the coast of Greenland has retreated revealing that what was previously believed to be a peninsula connected to the mainland, is actually an island. This area of land is now known as ‘Warming Island’ or Uunartoq Qeqertoq in Inuit, and was revealed in 2005. The US Geological Survey has speculated that more islands could potentially reveal themselves as the ice sheet thaws further.
Greenland’s climate is definitely cold; in certain places and at certain times of the year, it can be exceptionally so. Nevertheless, the climate of Greenland can also be relatively comfortable – T-shirt weather does sometimes occur, and you could even go as far as packing your sun cream.