Geography and climate in East Greenland
Lively diversity on Greenland's east coast
The largest part of Greenland stretches north of the Arctic Circle and at first sight the continent seems to be covered completely by ice. In reality, about 80% is covered permanently by ice – the so called inland ice sheet. Along the coast there is a band of several hundred meters up to 250 km wide which is free from ice and snow in the summer time. The inland ice is a shell rising up to 3500 meters in thickness and presses the basement rock about 250 meters below the sea level with its heavy weight. The total mass of the ice sheet is more or less constant: the glacier ice that is pushed into the sea and breaks off, creating icebergs, (a phenomenon called “calving”) is replenished by annual precipitation.
Climate change has the potential to disrupt this balance. Along the coast line grows a rich and diverse arctic flora during the snow-free season. There are bright, colourful flowers, cotton-grass, moss, lichen in many different shades of green and wondrous shapes, mushrooms, berry bushes and little crawling brushwood. There are butterflies and many bird species. Snow bunting, Greenland wheatear, terns, ravens and White sea eagle breed here. With some luck you may even spot a polar fox.
Isolation for centuries
The sea off of East Greenland’s coast is frozen in winter and ships can navigate only during three months of the year (from July to September). This fact prevented the colonialization of East Greenland and restricted influence from European culture for a long time. East Greenland is sparsely populated: only 3500 people live along the 10.000 km coast line , of which almost 3000 live in and around Tasiilaq, the commercial and administrative centre of East Greenland. The east Greenlandic people still follow their traditional way of living, mostly in the villages surrounding Tasiilaq. The thousands of years of isolation are a unique benefit for the visitor: he may find himself in a completely different reality and be inspired by the foreign culture.
Sun generator inland ice
In East Greenland the sun shines almost all the time: the cyclones which arise over Newfoundland and the Gulf stream and move east are directed to Iceland by the winds from the Greenlandic ice shield, the so called katabatic winds. While Iceland has only around 50 days of nice weather per year, it’s at least 200 in West Greenland and up to as many as 300 in East Greenland!
The best travel seasons
Holiday in East Greenland can be anything – contemplative idleness, relishing the silence and magnificent scenery; reading; strolling around; meeting the local people and their culture; boat tours amongst icebergs and wales; challenging summer- or winter-trekking; climbing tours; expeditions to the ice cap and the mountains of East Greenland. Christmas days and New Years Eve are the quietest days here – the modern festivity and shopping hustle and bustle is far, far away. Instead, here you get the endless sky above the glaciers and pack ice, intense colours in the whole spectrum of light, and the amazing starry sky with its awesome northern lights. It is a breathtaking natural spectacle. We celebrate Christmas and New Years Eve together. In fact, we celebrate New Years Eve twice! This is due to time zones: the Danish shoot their rockets at 20:00 (i.e. 24:00 in Denmark) and the Greenlanders at 24:00h.
The Piteraq is a katabatic wind, which develops over the Greenlandic ice cap and blows downwards the East coast. The word “Piteraq” in east Greenlandic language means “the one, who attacks you”. Mostly this wind blows in autumn and winter with velocities up to 300km/h.
Winter in East Greenland
In late winter and spring (March, April, May), when the days are getting longer (already 14 hours of daylight in March), you can go for long range dogsledding tours, skiing or snow shoe tours and hikes. In May the first moss, lichen and flowers appear. The middle temperature is around 0°C, but in the midday sun it rises up to +10 to 20°C.
Summer in East Greenland
The summer (June, July, August) is intense: the land transforms enormously when the temperatures rise over 20°C and the rugged land flowers under the midnight sun. It’s time for trekking, boat and kayak tours, whale watching safaris and swimming in the thousand lakes!
Autumn in East Greenland
In autumn (September, October) the landscape is distinguished by the colourful vegetation, the first snow on the mountains and the long shadows of the low sun. The temperatures fall to the freezing point during the nights but the days are still pleasant warm. It is ideal for going on day hikes and relaxing in the evening with a good lecture beside the oven.