Greenland Kalaallit Nunaat
Some of the oldest rock is found in Greenland. But, people have only been on the island for some 4500 years, since the first explorers - the first Native people - set foot on Greenland walking across the ice from Canada! Kalaallit Nunaat is the Native name for Greenland and it means "the Land of the People." An Inuit people traditionally living off the sea, the native are the Kalaallit.
About 57,000 people live in Greenland which is a democracy and part of the Kingdom of Denmark. However, Greenland now has an independent government from Denmar k which colonized Greenland for more than 300 years.
Part of the North American continent, the country stretches from Nunap Isua in the south (59.46° N) to Odaap Qeqertaa (83.40° N), the northernmost territory in the world! The Arctic Circle (66.33° N) runs across Greenland. North of the Arctic Circle you experience days of the year with darkness and days of the year with midnight sun. The further north you go, the longer the period of darkness and of midnight sun!
The country can be divided into climatic zones comprising the Low Arctic, the Arctic, and the High Arctic. Northern Greenland, where some areas are covered by Arctic desert, has the least amount of precipitation. South Greenland receives more precipitation and is green enough that people can raise sheep on pastures and have sheep farms!
The total area of Greenland is 2,175,600 km2. Only about 15% of the country is free of ice, the rest is covered by the world’s second largest ice cap, the Greenland Ice Cap. This ice sheet is made up of 9% of the Earth’s fresh water and it is some 2 miles (approximately 3,500 m) thick at its thickest.
In some places along the coast, mountain peaks protrude through the surface of the ice sheet and form islands of land called nunataks. Where glaciers reach the sea, icebergs break off and are carried away by ocean currents. Greenland’s approximately 25000 miles (40,000 km) long coastline has a many many large and small islands and fjords.
Several oceans and ocean currents meet in the waters surrounding Greenland. The ocean currents influence the sea’s temperature and salinity. This is part of what decides where you can find what marine creatures -- as well as sea ice!
Sea ice covers the oceans around Greenland for most of the year, and it is very important to the people as well as the ecosystems in Greenland. When sea ice covers the ocean , these areas of the ocean no longer touches the air (the atmosphere) and light from the sun can not get into the ocean. The sea ice decides where you can find a lot of animals and how the animals migrate... For example the marine mammals that must surface to breathe; some birds eat only in open water; and the surface of the sea ice is home for seals, walruses, polar bears and marine birds.
Sea ice that form during each winter is "annual ice." Sea ice several meters thick that survives the summer thaw is "multi-year ice." "Fast ice" forms along the coast. "Fjord ice" forms inside the fjords and "land ice" forms by the outer coasts. "Pack ice" includes all forms of sea ice that are not fast ice!