Greenland Overview

Greenland Overview

Greenland, with 2 166 086 km 2 the largest island on earth. It is counted as part of Arctic North America and is only sparsely populated (56,000 residents).

According to abbreviationfinder, the capital is Nuuk (Danish Godthåb) in the southwest of the island. The interior of Greenland is largely covered with inland ice, which is up to about 3,400 m thick; only a narrow coastal strip in the west and south is ice-free. The coast is strongly indented and rugged by deep fjords, south of 75 ° north latitude it is ice-free. The polar temperatures in the north do not exceed 0 ° C in summer and -30 ° C and lower in winter. The main occupation of the Greenlanders, made up of Europeans and Inuit emerged is fishing (until around 1920 it was seal hunting). Lead and zinc ores are mined.

History: The island was discovered by the Vikings around 875. From 986 onwards, settlements were established from Iceland on Greenland, and around 1000 it was Christianized. The colonies were initially independent, but from 1261 belonged to Norway and Denmark. In 1815 Greenland finally became Danish and in 1979 it became self-governing.


Geologically, Greenland is part of the Canadian Shield. In the north and east, the Precambrian rocks are overlaid by younger sedimentary and igneous rocks that were captured by the Caledonian mountain formation. The inland ice rises in the form of a shield towards the interior up to 2,850 m above sea level (southern dome) and 3,300 m above sea level (northern dome). Under the southern dome, the subsurface of the inland ice consists of a mountain range up to 1,000 m high, and under the central part and under the northern dome of a huge basin, which in places lies below sea level. The maximum ice thickness is 3,400 m, the average ice thickness 1,500 m and the total ice volume is 2.5 million km3. The plastic ice masses in places reach through the edge heights as mighty glaciers the sea where they calve icebergs. The fastest known ice stream, the Jakobshavn Isbrae in West Greenland with an ice thickness of 2,500 m, flows at a speed of up to 7 km per year into the Ilulissat Icefjord (UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004). The ice-free area represents – partly alternating with marine terraces – a glacial fjord and archipelago coast, above which an alpine, plateau-shaped relief in the northwest and north rises with heights of 1,200–1,500 m above sea level; highest mountain is Gunnbjørns Fjeld (3,700 m above sea level) in eastern Greenland.

The climate is an ice and tundra climate. The interior and the north have highly polar temperature conditions (January: −20 to −30 ° C with precipitation of 5–20 mm, July: 3–8 ° C with precipitation around 25 mm). The south is milder and more rainy due to cyclonic influences (Ivittuut has an average temperature of −5.4 ° C in January with 92 mm precipitation, in July an average temperature of 9.8 ° C with 82 mm precipitation). In the Kujataa lowlands in the south of the island, due to the sheltered location with a comparatively mild local climate, an agricultural landscape was even able to develop. The area was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2017. On the east coast, the cold East Greenland Current with polar drift ice keeps the temperatures low. The precipitation falls as snow or frost. Under the influence of global climate change, the ice cover is increasingly melting, especially in the south and southwest.

The flora is part of the Arctic flora region and in the parts near the ice edge in the south by up to 4 m high birch and alder wood, juniper and rhododendron, to the north by polar willow, herbs, grasses, moss and lichens; the ice-free coasts have sub-polar meadows or rocky rocky pods rich in cushion plants.

Reindeer, blue and white foxes, arctic hares and musk oxen are characteristic of the fauna of the coastal fringe. Their enemy, the wolf, was wiped out in Greenland in the 1930s; since 1978 the wolf has been recovering in small numbers. Lemmingsare also characteristic of the north and northeast. Reptiles and amphibians are almost completely absent. There are seals, whales, walruses and around 100 species of fish in the coastal waters. Most of the over 200 species of birds feed on the sea.


The predominant population today, the Greenlanders, are a subgroup of the Inuit. There is also a mixed race population, which arose from the union of Greenlanders with the Europeans, who came to Greenland as whalers from the middle of the 17th century and as settlers from 1721. Around 11% of the population are Danes. Almost 95% of the residents of Greenland live on the south west coast: The largest settlements are, besides Nuuk, Sisimiut, Ilulissat, Aasiaat (Danish Egedesminde), Qaqortoq, Maniitsoq, Paamiut, Narsaq and Nanortalik. The largest settlement is Tasiilaq in East Greenland and Qaanaaq in North Greenland.


Around 96% of the population are Christians. In addition to the Danish Evangelical Lutheran People’s Church, to which most of the Christians belong (Denmark, religion), there are parishes of the Moravian Brethren, various Scandinavian Pentecostal churches and, since 1968, a Catholic parish. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Greenland is formally subordinate to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Zealand / Copenhagen, but is headed by its own vice bishop based in Nuuk. The Catholic parish belongs to the diocese of Copenhagen.


The economy includes fishing and fish processing, more recently tourism, also seal hunting and sheep breeding. The granting of licenses for the exploration and development of mineral resources (crude oil, uranium, rare earths, iron ore) is of economic importance. The exploitation of the lead-zinc ores in Maarmorilik on the central west coast (1973–1990 in operation) was resumed in 2013 by a British company. Since Greenland is completely dependent on energy imports, glacier meltwater is to be used to generate its own energy in the future. In addition to energy sources, mainly food and machinery are imported, fish and fish products (mainly shrimp) exported, as well as lead-zinc ores and hides. The main trading partner is Denmark. Greenland receives annual grants from the Danish government, which amount to approx.

Greenland Overview

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