Despite its name, Greenland is mostly a land of snow and ice, with four-fifths of the country covered by an ice sheet. Yet its northernmost point, Peary Land (named after the explorer Robert Peary, widely credited as being the first person to reach the north pole), is actually ice free, because the air is so dry that snow does not fall there, making it a polar desert.
As the world’s largest island, with a land area of more than 2m sq km, Greenland stretches over 34 degrees of latitude, from 83 degrees north to 60 degrees north – roughly level with the Shetland Islands.
Three-quarters of Greenland lies within the Arctic Circle, so the summers are brief and cool, while the winters are long and very cold. The town of Qaanaaq (also known as Thule) is one of the most northerly in the world, with average temperatures of just 5Cin July, plummeting to -25Cin February. Farther south, in the capital, Nuuk, temperatures are a few degrees higher.
Greenland holds the unenviable record of the lowest temperature ever recorded in the northern hemisphere. In December 1991, near the summit of the Greenland ice sheet, it fell to -69.6C. But with the onset of the climate crisis, summer temperatures in the high 20s are now being recorded; an ominous sign for the future.