Climate of Greenland

Climate of Greenland

Greenland, an autonomous region of Denmark, is without a doubt one of the coldest countries in the world. Most of Greenland is permanently covered with snow and/or ice. Only in the short summer months do temperatures along the coastal areas rise above freezing. The interior has almost no thaw days, even during the summer.

About 95% of Greenland has an ice climate (type EF according to the Köppen climate classification), along the coastal areas there is a tundra climate (ET) because the temperatures there during the daytime do rise above freezing point. Both climates belong to the group of Arctic climates. Not all of Greenland lies within the Arctic Circle: about a quarter is south of the Arctic Circle and the most southern point is almost on the same latitude as the most northern tip of Scotland. The reason that even that part of Greenland is much colder than, for example, the north of Scotland or the south of Sweden is that there is no Warm Gulf Stream here, which means that the seawater is a lot lower in temperature. The sea therefore hardly has a warming effect in winter and in summer the cooling effect is stronger than in Europe, where the Warm Gulf Stream provides relatively warm seawater.


About 85% of mainland Greenland is covered in ice. This land ice is about one and a half kilometers thick and ensures that, by means of glaciers, ice slowly slides towards the sea and there, under the influence of thaw and the sea, breaks down into the sea. The thick ice cover also helps maintain the low temperatures in Central Greenland. Lately, much has been written about global warming and the melting of the ice sheet. In Greenland, the thickness of the ice sheet along the edges is indeed decreasing, in some places by more than half a meter per year. However, the central part of the ice sheet is still growing. Not so much in centimeters (on average 0 to 12 centimeters per year), but because the area of ​​increasing ice is many times larger than the area where the ice is decreasing at a faster rate, the balance is ultimately about zero. The total amount of ice on Greenland is therefore hardly decreasing.

Cool summers

Summers in Greenland are cold (inland and north) to cool (coastal areas). In the southernmost tip, temperatures can rise above freezing during the day from May to October. With average maximum temperatures of 10 to 12 degrees Celsius, July and August are the warmest in the southernmost point of Greenland. Not enough to relax by the pool, but much more pleasant than the freezing temperatures that you still find in the interior. If you are lucky, you will have to deal with a warm hair dryer wind, which can make it as high as 20 degrees in the south during the day. Further north, the summer is shorter and the temperatures are also lower. In the northern half of Greenland, the daytime temperature barely rises above freezing and you also have to deal with light to moderate frosts in the middle of summer. All this with a sun that shines 24 hours a day in May, June and July.

Cold winters

The winters on the largest island in the world vary from cool (southern coast) to frigid (inland and north). The southern coastal regions have light to moderate frost during the day and at night it freezes on average about ten to twelve degrees. Further north, temperatures drop to minus 15 during the day and minus 30 at night. Along the northernmost coast, where the sun does not even rise at all between November and February, the average daily temperature is around minus thirty degrees. The interior is extremely cold in the winter. Minus fifty degrees is very normal in the middle of winter.


With regard to precipitation, you see big differences in Greenland. The north and central Greenland are dry. With an average of more than one hundred to about 300 millimeters of precipitation on an annual basis, these areas are among the driest areas in the world. The south is a completely different story. Under the influence of the ocean, depressions are regularly supplied there, which provide precipitation in the form of rain (summer) and snow (all year round). The southernmost coastal areas register as much as two thousand to twenty five hundred millimeters of precipitation per year. The quantities are fairly spread over the year, although the summer months are predominantly wetter than the winter months.

Climate figures

The figures below are based on long-term average climate statistics. The temperatures are displayed in degrees Celsius (°C).

Maximum temperature Minimum temperature Hours of sunshine per day Days of rainfall per month Water temperature
January -12℃ -20℃ 0 10 -1℃
February -16℃ -23℃ 0 9 -2℃
March -15℃ -23℃ 4 9 -2℃
April -9℃ -17℃ 7 8 -2℃
May -1℃ -6℃ 8 6 -1℃
June 4℃ -1℃ 8 8 1℃
July 10℃ 3℃ 8 11 4℃
August 10℃ 3℃ 7 12 4℃
September 3℃ -2℃ 4 11 2℃
October -3℃ -6℃ 1 11 1℃
November -7℃ -11℃ 0 12 0℃
December -11℃ -16℃ 0 11 -1℃

Best time to visit Greenland

Do you want to know when is the best time to travel to Greenland? You can determine the best time to travel to a destination based on the weather and climate. In addition, there are other factors that are not directly related to the weather and that can influence the best travel periods for a travel destination. Think, for example, of holidays or festive periods, which makes traveling more interesting or not, because daily life comes to a standstill as a result. Greenland is a country that geographically belongs to North America, but politically belongs to Europe. That’s because this sparsely populated destination is an autonomous area within the Kingdom of Denmark. Greenland is mainly visited by people who want to discover the rugged arctic nature. Think glaciers, fjords and various animals that thrive in Greenland’s rather extreme climate. Think of polar bears, reindeer, the musk ox and the Greenland dog. Greenland is also a great destination to spot all kinds of whale species close to the coast.

Most pleasant months

You don’t visit Greenland for a sun, sea and beach holiday. That is practically impossible in a climate like that of Greenland. The theoretically highest possible temperature in southern Greenland is about twenty degrees. In practice, however, this is rarely achieved and the thermometer often remains at around ten to twelve degrees during the hottest months of July and August. The period from June to August is the best time to travel to Greenland.

Winter sports

Greenland’s cool climate provides excellent winter sports opportunities. The number of ski lifts and groomed slopes is limited, making Greenland primarily a winter sports destination for the more adventurous winter sports enthusiast.

You can practice winter sports in Greenland all year round. Not everywhere, because along the coasts the thermometer shoots above freezing in the summer, so that it is not winter weather everywhere. However, the winter period will be too cold and too dark for many. Harsh temperatures that can drop to minus fifty degrees in combination with the dark days and snowfall can pose a risk to people who are not trained for this. Based on the weather and snow conditions, spring, especially the period March-April, is the best time to travel for a winter sports holiday in Greenland.

The northern Lights

Greenland is one of the destinations where you can see the Northern Lights. Officially called aurora borealis, this aurora is a magical phenomenon that is on the bucket list of many travelers. This light phenomenon is created by solar wind. The Earth’s magnetic field ensures that the charged particles are deflected towards the North Pole and South Pole. That’s why it’s called aurora borealis. The best chance of seeing the Northern Lights is in the winter. This has nothing to do with the temperature, but with the fact that the sky is dark enough to make the Northern Lights visible. The best time to see the aurora in Greenland is from November to March.