world's largest island, is about 80% ice capped. Vikings reached the
island in the 10th century from Iceland; Danish colonization began in the
18th century, and Greenland was made an integral part of Denmark in 1953.
It joined the European Community (now the EU) with Denmark in 1973 but
withdrew in 1985 over a dispute centered on stringent fishing quotas.
Greenland was granted self-government in 1979 by the Danish parliament;
the law went into effect the following year. Greenland voted in favor of
increased self-rule in November 2008 and acquired greater responsibility
for internal affairs in June 2009. Denmark, however, continues to exercise
control of Greenland's foreign affairs, security, and financial policy in
consultation with Greenland's Home Rule Government.
Self-governing part of Denmark
(July 2011 est.) Inuit 89%, Danish and other 11%
Capital and largest
town: Nuuk (Godthab)
Area: 2.17m sq km
(840,000 sq miles)
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 66
years (men), 71 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1
Danish krone = 100 ore
Fish, fish products, hides and skins
GNI per capita:
Internet domain: .gl
dialling code: +299
The climate in
Greenland is extremely harsh. More than 80% of the island is covered by an
ice cap which is 4km thick in places.
Many of the Eskimo (Inuit)
people survive by hunting and fishing and are struggling as fish stocks
become depleted. The island's population is only 57,000.
The capital of Greenland is
Nuuk. It is also the largest city of Greenland. University of Greenland is
located at the capital city and Air Greenland offers regular flight
service to Nuuk Airport.
Cities in Greenland
fall under different regions which are divided on the basis of population
of that area. The cities vary in their importance and features.
1. The central region--Nuuk and Sisimiut
Most densely populated, and comprising the municipalities of Paamiut,
Nuuk, Maniitsoq, Kangaatsiaq and Sisimiut, this region forms the
financial hub of the country.
The capital of
Greenland, Nuuk is home Landstinget, the home rule administration
and institutions of higher education. The
headquarters of the country's banks and most of the major companies
are present in Nuuk. Nuuk also forms the most important port
Sisimiut, the second
largest city of Greenland comprises a large number of commercial
enterprises. The most important industry of Greenland, the fishing
industry is located in Sisimiut. It has the Greenland's largest fish
factory which is one of the most upgraded plants in the world.
2. The Disko region--Ilulissat
Made up of the municipalities of Aasiaat, Qasigiannguit, Qeqertarsuaq
and Ilulissat this region consists of a quarter of Greenland's
The third largest town
of Greenland, Ilulissat is the commercial center of the Northern
Greenland. Fishing being the primary occupation, the town has
several local fish factories. Many companies have also come up in
this town due to its economic development.
3. The North and East
Commercially underdeveloped, this area has the municipalities of
Uummannaq, Upernavik, Qaanaaq, Ammassalik and Ittoqqortoormiit. 20% of
Greenland populations who live in this area depend on marine mammals and
4. The Southern Region
Municipalities of Nanortalik, Qaqortoq and Narsaq lie in this region.
Agriculture, fishing, sheep farming and gold mining form the major
occupational activities of this region.
The fourth largest
town in Greenland, Qaqortoq is also the largest in the
southern region. Acting as the financial center of this region, it
contains a large fishing fleet and a fish factory.
studies have raised fears that global warming is causing Greenland's ice
cover to melt increasingly fast and that this could have serious
implications for future sea levels and ocean currents unless the process
is rapidly halted and then reversed.
of the Greenland Ice Sheet to a changing climate is complex. It depends on
the interactions between the ice sheet, the atmosphere, and the ocean.
Only recently have complex mathematical models been developed that
describe this system as a whole and this has improved our ability to model
the natural system as a whole.
Glacier (credits: M. Studinger NASA)
estimates of the balance at the ice sheet surface, now and in the future,
relies on being able to downscale regional atmospheric models and to
understand the processes controlling the fast-fl owing ice streams.
Additional uncertainties concern our understanding of the influence of melt water
below significant parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet. It is important to
remember that all models rely on assumptions and that as a result all
model projections come with a level of uncertainty. Uncertainties tend to
increase the further the projections extend into the future. However, as
long as the uncertainties are properly understood, models provide perhaps
the only tool currently available for predicting what the future will
Glacier (credits: M. Studinger NASA)
their limitations, it is clear from the mathematical models that the
Greenland Ice Sheet is very sensitive to climate warming.
Mountain ridges showing the
distinctive geology of the Geikie Plateau region in eastern Greenland, as
seen from NASA's P-3B aircraft on April 16, 2012. This image was captured
during NASA’s IceBridge campaign. IceBridge, a six-year NASA mission, is
the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever flown. It will yield
an unprecedented three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice
sheets, ice shelves and sea ice. These flights will provide a yearly,
multi-instrument look at the behavior of the rapidly changing features of
the Greenland and Antarctic ice. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Jefferson Beck
Greenland Ice Sheet is losing mass in response to recent climate warming.
Even if temperatures stabilize, the ice sheet will continue to melt for
some time. Beyond a certain point the ice sheet may even enter a state of
‘irreversible destabilization’ leading to a complete melting of the
ice sheet – as happened to the ice sheets that covered much of northern
Europe and North America at the end of the last ice age. Under this
scenario, Greenland would lose its ice sheet until such time as a new
glaciation occurred. The surface warming at which the melting of the ice
sheet would become ‘irreversible’ is a so-called ‘threshold’.
Greenland Canyons-On March 29, 2011, Operation IceBridge flew between deep
canyons and over glaciers along the northwest coast of Greenland.
IceBridge, now in its third year, makes annual campaigns in the Arctic and
Antarctic where science flights monitor glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice.
Image Credit: NASA/Michael Studinger
scientists believe that if the average global warming were to rise by 3.1
°C (corresponding to a warming over Greenland of 4.5 °C) thinning of the
ice sheet would reinforce the decay of the ice sheet as a whole. Draw down
of the ice sheet due to rapid glacial discharge would make it impossible
to reverse the decline, even if temperatures were stabilized.
Despite a lack
of knowledge on the exact temperature rise that would constitute this
threshold, it is agreed that well before the threshold is reached, the
mass balance for the ice sheet as a whole would have started to decline
– something that has already started during the 1990s and 2000s.
In August 2010, the
Petermann Glacier along the northwestern coast of Greenland calved an ice
island roughly four times the size of Manhattan. Nearly a year later, on
July 20, 2011, a piece of that ice island—named Petermann Ice Island-A (PII-A)
and about the same size as Manhattan—was still visible to the Moderate
Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite.
The Canadian Ice Service
(CIS) tracked the ice island as it drifted through the Labrador Sea. On
July 8, 2011, the CIS reported that the PII-A was approximately 55 square
kilometers (21 square miles), and was continuing to lose surface area
through calving and melting. On July 20, MODIS observed PII-A slightly
south of where it had been a month earlier.
On July 21, 2011, MSNBC
reported that PII-A was slowly drifting toward Newfoundland. The glacier
was not likely to reach land; its base would probably become grounded on
the sea floor off the coast. The ice chunk did, however, pose a potential
hazard for shipping lanes and offshore oil rigs.
Credit: CIA, NASA, Arctic Monitoring and Assessment
compiled from The British Antarctic Study, NASA, Environment Canada,
UNEP, EPA and other sources as stated and credited Researched by Charles
Welch-Updated daily This Website is a project of the The Ozone Hole Inc.
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