This page presents Greenland's climate context for the current climatology, 1991-2020, derived from observed, historical data. Information should be used to build a strong understanding of current climate conditions in order to appreciate future climate scenarios and projected change. You can visualize data for the current climatology through spatial variation, the seasonal cycle, or as a time series. Analysis is available for both annual and seasonal data. Data presentation defaults to national-scale aggregation, however sub-national data aggregations can be accessed by clicking within a country, on a sub-national unit. Other historical climatologies can be selected from the Time Period dropdown list. Data for specific coordinates can be downloaded for in the Data Download page.
Observed, historical data is produced by the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of University of East Anglia. Data is presented at a 0.5º x 0.5º (50km x 50km) resolution.
Greenland has an Arctic climate. About 80% of the land is covered by an ice sheet that is up to 3 km thick, while the ice-free land areas are limited to a coastal strip that is 50-300 km wide. Furthest south, and closest to the edge of the ice, the climate is sub-Arctic with a mean temperature of more than 10°C in July. The climate in southwest Greenland, where most of the population of 55,000 live, is low-Arctic. This part of Greenland is characterized by relatively mild winters with a lot of snow and periods of thaw, and wet summers with average temperatures of less than 10°C in the warmest month.
North and north-east Greenland are in the high-Arctic zone. The climate has continental characteristics with very cold winters down to minus 50 degrees (Celsius) in north Greenland. The temperature is rarely above zero degrees from September to May. Winter precipitation is limited as parts of north Greenland has a desert climate with less than 25 mm precipitation per year, corresponding to about 1% of the precipitation at the southern tip of Greenland.
The continental climate in high-Arctic Greenland is determined by sea ice from the Arctic Ocean, which hitherto has made up the pack-ice belt, often up to several hundred kilometers wide, which floats southwards along the east coast of Greenland. In recent years, the extent of the Polar Ice has been reduced for long periods, and this has led to unusual events such as wave erosion along the coasts which previously had not seen open sea to the same extent. The climate in high-Arctic Greenland is greatly influenced by the amount and spread of sea ice.
- During 1991–2019 there was significant overall warming of ~4.4°C in winter, ~2.7°C in spring, and ~1.7°C in summer, that was generally focused in areas away from the extreme south.
- The strongest warming was in west and northwest Greenland, up to ~6–6.5°C in winter. For the overall 1981–2019 period these values reach ~6–7.5°C. However, mean temperature trends are not significant for all seasons since 2001.
- Summer and July temperature trends for 1991–2018 at Swiss Camp are respectively 1.7°C and 1.2°C which are significant warmings and broadly comparable with 1.5/1.6°C for CGT2(3) for both July and summer (1991–2018).
- A similar significant warming of 1.9°C is observed at Summit for summer 1992–2019. The observed summer warming of 1.1°C
- Greenland warming in summer since the early 1990s is generally significant and extends from the coastline across the ice sheet.
- The lower-density summer snow which aids in the stratigraphic identification of the annual layers in the snow profile is presumed to have been deposited before that date.
- The record of annual precipitation at the ice cap site indicates an apparent gradual decrease in precipitation between 1920 and 1954.
- The annual precipitation in central Greenland between 1911 and 1931 has also been computed by Sorge 6 from snow profile studies at the Eismitte station.
- This record indicates that annual precipitation at this mid-ice sheet station decreased between 1920 and 1931.