Greenland. At the beginning of the year came new warnings about the effects of climate warming in Greenland. The glaciers had melted record-breaking in the past year, according to a study published in Environmental Research Letters. The ice melt had lasted 50 days longer than the annual average for three decades. According to climate researchers, the ever-faster melting of Greenlandic glaciers could lead to a global increase in sea level by 90-160 centimeters until the next turn of the century.
In March, Greenland requested that Denmark investigate whether the US intelligence service CIA carried prisoners in Greenlandic, Faroese or Danish airspace. It is known that CIA planes landed in Greenland for refueling. At the end of the year, Denmark agreed to an investigation into the CIA’s flights.
According to the United States Geological Institute, one fifth of the world’s recoverable hydrocarbon reserves are in the Arctic, and the US was said to have shown growing interest in Greenland’s possible oil and gas resources during the year. Seven major oil companies were allowed to search for deposits outside Greenland, but only Scottish Cairn Energy drilled and searched down to one and a half kilometers deep, which no one in the Arctic has done before.
In May, Greenpeace activists managed to occupy a Norwegian oil rig hired by Cairn Energy for drilling outside Greenland. After blocking the oil rig’s work for four days, the activists were arrested by Greenland police. Cairn Energy sued Greenpeace and claimed damages of up to two million British pounds a day if the oil rig’s work was further hindered. Greenpeace requested that the company present a disaster plan, as oil spills in the cold Arctic waters are considered near enough impossible to clean up. Cairn Energy’s wells outside Greenland during two seasons were estimated to cost about SEK 4 billion.
At the Danish parliamentary elections in September, the two Greenlandic seats went to the left-wing party Inuit Ataqatigiit and Social Democratic Siumut respectively.
Geography and population
Greenland is the world’s largest island with a land area of 2 166 000 square kilometers, of which about 80 percent is covered by inland ice. The ice-free area is slightly smaller than Sweden’s surface. The island’s highest point, Gunnbjörn Fjeld, lies on East Greenland and reaches 3,693 meters above sea level. The world’s oldest rocks, just over four billion years old, and the world’s oldest trace of organic life, 3.8 billion years old, have been found in the fjord system at the capital Nuuk (Godthåb). The Ilulissat area of the Disco Bay about 50 km north of Nuuk has a very productive glacier and was classified as a World Heritage site by the UN agency Unesco in 2004.
The inland ice can be up to 3,500 meters thick but on average is only half as thick. It is the world’s second largest freshwater reservoir. The inland ice consists of compressed snow and drill cores taken from the ice, among other things, tells about climate change for more than 200,000 years. Climate change causes large parts of the ice to melt faster, which can have major effects on seawater levels and temperatures worldwide. At present, the ice mass decreases by an average of 250 cubic kilometers annually, which means that the seawater level rises by 0.7 millimeters.
The climate is arctic or subarctic with average temperatures varying between 5 and 10 plus degrees in July and between 8 and 23 minus degrees in February. The annual rainfall varies from just over 1,000 mm in the south to just 230 mm in the north. Most mildly, it is around the fjords in the southwest, where there are plains that make it possible to carry on sheep breeding. Up till now, willow and birch have been the only tree species to cope with the climate, but attempts are being made to plant hardy conifers.