Geography



  Key Population Figures (2007)

Average life expectancy for people born in Greenland:
Men: 64.4 years.
Women: 70.4 years.

Fertility rate for women born in Greenland:
In towns: 2.2 children.
In settlements: 3.0 children.

Infant mortality:
Boys: 15.2.
Girls: 6.9.

Greenland Statistical yearbook 2008 >>

     
 

Geography of Greenland

 
 
 
Greenland is part of the North American continent.

It is the world’s largest island, with a total area of around 1.37 million square miles (2.2 million square kilometers), but only approx. 254,762 square miles (410,000 square kilometers) are not covered by ice.

The northernmost extremity, Cape Morris Jesup, is the northernmost land area in the world, just 459.8 miles (740 kilometers) from the North Pole. Cape Farewell, Greenland’s southernmost point, is situated approx. 1,659 miles (2,670 kilometers) to the south, at the latitude of the Nordic capitals of Oslo and Helsinki.

Measured west-east, Greenland is 652.44 miles (1,050 kilometers) wide at its broadest point.


Such a great expanse results in wide climatic variations in Greenland. In addition, the ice cap has a distinctive influence everywhere. With the exception of a few sheltered valleys in South Greenland, the climate is Arctic, with an average temperature during the warmest month of the year of less than 10°C!

Learn more about Greenland's population
  POPULATION go there

Some 56,700 people live in Greenland. About 50,000 of them born on the island...

Learn more about Greenland's Infrastructure
  INFRASTRUCTURE go there

There are said to be 90 miles (150 km) of roads in the whole country...

Learn more about Greenland's trade and sales
  TRADE and SALES go there

“The board” (“brættet”) the place where hunters and fishermen are...

Learn more about Greenland's society and education
  SOCIETY and EDUCATION go there

Upper secondary schools in the towns of Nuuk, Qaqortoq, Aasiaat and Sisimiut...
     


The Sea Ice

The east coast is dominated by the East Greenland polar current, covering it with a sheet of ice over three feet (or a meter) thick during the six winter months. During the summer, large ice masses slowly drift from the polar basin down along the coast and south of Cape Farewell.

Along the southern part of the west coast, a relatively warm current keeps the coast clear of sea ice all year round. Navigation is only impeded at the southernmost point during the spring and summer months by the ice drifting down from the polar basin.

From Disko Bay northwards, the sea is covered by ice during the six winter months, but fully or partly navigable during the six summer months. The further north you get, the shorter the navigable period.

Sea Ice in Greenland  

Arctic sea ice reaches lowest extent for 2009

See daily updates from Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis >>


 
Opening towards the north


The Arctic Ocean and the North Pole have long been regarded as an area of limited economic interest with ‘shallower’ waters easily three miles (4 km) deep and significant ice cover in constant movement determined by the prevalent marine current. This has resulted in limited access to the area. However, the ice is increasingly melting as a result of the ocean getting warmer and this creates completely new opportunities, partly in terms of navigation and partly in terms on hunting and fishing as well as the exploitation of the resources which are believed to exist in the area, such as large quantities of oil and natural gas.

This raises the issue of owner ship of the resources. From a Greenlandic and therefore also Danish perspective, it is a question of whether there is a natural connnection between the Greenlandic continental shelf and the long, narrow, submarine Lomonosov mountain range.

Extensive geological and geophysical investigations of the geographic structures in the area are therefore underway. If such a connection is established, Greenland/Denmark will have the disposal of energy reserves, which are thought to be the largest in the world.



Arctic Ocean Boundaries - Click to enlarge
                         Source: IBRU. Download the full PDF file >>

The next cold war?

In August 2007 Russian scientists sent a submarine to the Arctic Ocean seabed at 90° North to gather data in support of Russia's claim that the North Pole is part of the Russian continental shelf. The expedition provoked a hostile reaction from other Arctic lstates and prompted media speculation that Russia's action might trigger a "new Cold War" over the resources of the Arctic.


While there are a number of disagreements over maritime jurisdiction in the Arctic region, so far all of the Arctic states have followed the rules and procedures for establishing seabed jurisdiction set out in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

To date, only Russia and Norway have made submissions to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf, but Canada, Denmark and the USA are also likely to define their continental shelf limits over the next few years

The map (left) from IBRU shows known claims and agreed upon boundaries, plus areas that are being discussed for the future.

Click on the map to enlarge it >>