It can be blisteringly cold in winter with snow storms lasting for days, and winds can be so forceful that the rest of the world would call them hurricanes. But strong weather is fortunately not the only type in Greenland. It can also be downright hot in summer, making you break a sweat just sitting outdoors.
All weathers are beautiful in their own way, as long as you are prepared for them. Here are 7 different types of weather with a few ideas for how to beat them at their own game.
All weathers are beautiful in their own way, as long as you are prepared for them.
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Some towns are notorious for being windy – like Nuuk – but in general, any town or settlement in Greenland can get breezy at the drop of a hat, as nearly all of them are located on the coast. Winds of 5-10 mps are doable and nothing to worry about, but once you get up into the range of 15-20 mps, the wind is impossible to ignore. FYI – winds up to 25-30 mps are not uncommon.
Tip: The best way to beat the wind is to use windproof outer layers and to keep your head warm with a hat or a Buff headband. A cosy wool sweater doesn’t hurt either. And if you should have a sailing tour scheduled on a windy day, it is best to have your sea legs about you! But if it is too windy, the tour might be cancelled anyway.
Fog can be tricky business because it not only makes the temperature drop but also disorients a bit by hiding landmarks in a grey, misty cloak.
Tip: Take an extra warm layer plus a warm hat on hiking or boat tours so you can brush off the chill. A thin waterproof outer layer will help keep the wet mist from settling in your clothes. If you are out hiking without a guide and are wary of the route, stay where you are until the fog dissipates.
On the plus side, fog can make for really dramatic photos!
High sunshine is of course what everyone would probably wish for, but maybe what nobody expects in Greenland. The truth is, in summer it actually can get surprisingly warm when sitting on the terrace or hiking with a pack. And north of the Arctic Circle, the sun does not go away in the summer months. In the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn, there can easily be plenty of sunshine, but it probably won’t be warm enough to sit outside and sunbathe.
Tip: No matter the season, even in winter, bring sunscreen and apply it often. There are no trees to protect you from harmful UV rays, and if you are doing an activity like skiing or glacier walking on the Greenland Ice Sheet, there will be a lot of reflection. Also bring sunglasses and a water bottle. Wear loose-fitting clothes made of breathable materials because it is easier to adjust body temperature with several thin layers than one thick layer.
Greenland remains a frozen planet from late autumn to late spring with temperatures plummeting to 20-30 degrees below zero in many places in the coldest months of December, January and February. It is fantastic to imagine society thriving in this environment.
Tip: To be able to spend more than two minutes outdoors you must have a well-insulated winter jacket, and it helps if it has a hood with a lining. Insulated snow pants, winter boots, wool socks, plus a hat and scarf and gloves are also needed. Depending on your activity, long underwear will also be good. Many Greenlanders swear by Canada Goose brand and muskox wool products.
With so many pieces, thank goodness for coat checks in the hotels and restaurants.
For an overview of winter clothing, see this short video:
The snow can be so peaceful and soothing, blanketing everything in a fresh layer of white that crunches underfoot. It even gives the air a particular scent.
Tip: Freshly-fallen snow can be quite slippery on ice-covered ground, so for a little extra stability, use easy-to-remove shoe grips with spikes. Just remember to remove them before going into shops.
In summer, rain replaces snow, giving life to all the flowers and angelica, making them grow colourful and large while they can. Getting wet does not scare Greenlanders, so your city tour or outdoor adventure most likely will not get cancelled just because it is raining. Oddly enough, thunder and lightning are a rare occasion.
Tip: Pack a rain jacket and rain pants, and it would be a good thing if your shoes or hiking boots were waterproof, too. A lightweight wool sweater in the pack might also be a welcome sight.
These most extreme of the extreme conditions are normal for Greenland here and there in the winter and spring, but they do not last for more than a few days. If you should travel on one of these days, you will be delayed. But don’t worry; cabin fever does not set in until Day 5.
Tip: The best thing to do on these high-wind and dangerous days is stay inside where it is warm and dry with a hot mug of something delicious. Don’t forget a good book!