The temperature in Greenland is highly dependent on where you are and which time of the year you visit the country. The mean temperature remains below +10° C (50° F) in June, July and August in just about every town in Greenland, whilst all places are below freezing from November through to April. In the southern part of the country and the innermost parts of the long fjords, the temperature can rise to more than 20° C (68° F) in summer.
The sea around Greenland affects the climate on the land. The stretches of coastline close to the open sea, in particular, are cooled by the sea. Therefore during the summer months it is warmest and driest in the middle of the country, which lies closest to the ice sheet. In all parts of the country the weather is locally.
Humidity, rain and snow
The air is generally very dry in Greenland and because of this low humidity the low temperatures do not feel as cold as you might expect. The low humidity also means that you can see further than you are probably used to. Mountain crests that appear to be close are usually further away than you think and this should be borne in mind when planning a hike.
Greenland is not completely devoid of rain, but heavy rain is rare. Rainfall levels are generally a little higher in the south than in the north. In fact there is less rainfall in Northeast Greenland than in the Sahara, and thus the expression “the Arctic desert” has arisen. Quantities of snow also vary locally. Enquire in advance at your local travel agency if you are planning to go skiing or dog sledding.
Wind in Greenland
Generally-speaking it is not that windy in Greenland and many days are completely calm. However the so called “Föhn-winds” can certainly pick up. These are usually warm winds from the southeast which can be very strong with gusts of more than 50 m/s and are usually followed by precipitation.
Wind can increase the effect of the cold. Minus 5°C feels a lot colder in a wind blowing at 10 m/s. This is what is known as the chill factor. Although minus 15° C sounds cold, it does not have to feel it, as long as there is no wind.
Midnight sun, northern lights and polar night
The light phenomena in the Polar Regions are some of nature’s most incredible ideas and they only can be encountered on or north/south of the Polar Circles.
In Ilulissat, for example, the sun never sets from May 25th to July 25th. Midnight sun is a state of mind – time makes no sense and there is light around the clock. The warm nightlight and the long shadows create dreamlike sceneries. The winter darkness is the companion to the midnight sun and equal fascinating. The sun doesn’t rise above the horizon and the landscape is all white from the snow and the frozen sea. But snow, the moon, stars and northern lights illuminate the darkness and give an unreal atmosphere. Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) itself are a sufficient reason to travel to the North. White, yellow, green and red they sweep across the sky. Northern lights appear all year round, but they can only be observed against a clear, dark night sky. A well-known legend of the Inuit relates that when the northern lights dance in the night sky, it means that the dead are playing football with a walrus skull.
Best travel season
The summer in Greenland can be said to start in June and end in September. It should however be understood that there is a difference between the west coast and the east coast, with the east coast summer somewhat shorter. Obviously there is also a difference between north and south. To give an example, the snow in South Greenland has usually retreated to the mountains while in Scoresby Sund in the NE everything is still covered with ice and snow.