Before you go to Greenland, check the weather!

IMG_8695 Sila nuan’! Nice weather! Summer in Tasiilaq, Greenland.

In Greenland, sila reigns all. Sila is the entire worldly environment which can be seen with one’s own two eyes – the world of humans. The word is most commonly used in everyday Greenlandic to talk about the weather, and everyone knows that absolutely nothing can be done when sila acts up – so if your travel plans are affected, don’t even use your energy to get angry over it. That’s just how it is.

I recommend preparing yourself by checking the weather in Greenland a few days before departure/arrival. Most Greenlanders rely on the Danish Meteorological Institute for a weather forecast. Since the website is in Danish, here’s a small Cliff’s Notes to how to read the graphs, using the current weather for Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, in the next two days, Saturday-Sunday, 2-3 January 2016.

There’s 5 things to look for on the graphs – general weather characteristics, precipitation, temperature, wind speed, and wind direction. There is a 2-day outlook, a 3-9-day outlook, and a 10-14-day outlook, but really the only one that should be taken seriously is the 2-day outlook. Weather can always change.

The time is measured in military time, so for anyone that isn’t accustomed to this, 15 is 3:00 PM, 18 is 6:00 PM, and so on.

General Weather Characteristics

The top line of the graph shows the typical weather symbols to give a quick impression of what the day will hold. Fun fact: if the outlook is clear skies all day long on a winter day above the Arctic Circle, the symbols will be all stars 🙂

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 9.13.22 PM

Precipitation

“Nedbør” means precip (rain or snow), and if there is any, there will be dark blue vertical bars beneath the blue line. The amount is measured in mm along the y-axis on the left.

In the graph below, there is no precipitation predicted.

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 9.13.22 PM copy 3

Temperature

The blue line indicates air temperature and is measured in degrees Celsius along the y-axis on the right.

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 9.13.22 PM copy 3

For a general rule of thumb for conversions, for every 5*C you go up or down, the *F goes up or down by 9. And for even quicker reference:

  • 20*C = 68*F
  • 15*C = 59*F
  • 10*C = 50*F
  • 5*C = 41*F
  • 0*C = 32*F
  • -5*C = 23*F
  • -10*C = 14*F
  • -15*C = 5*F
  • -20*C = -4*F

Wind Speed & Wind Direction

The red and black lines indicate wind speed, both the gusts (“vindstød”) and the persistent winds (“middelvind”), and are measured in meters per second along the y-axis on the right.

10 m/s is approximately 22 mph or 36 kph, and is nothing that gets people worried in Greenland. There has definitely been 40 m/s (89 mph or 144 kph) before – or higher in East Greenland when the Piteraq comes – and that’s cause for worry!

The arrows along the x-axis on the bottom indicate the direction of the wind. Keep a watch for downward-pointing arrows – this means the wind comes from the north and makes for very chilly temperatures!

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 9.13.22 PM copy 2

Now you’re all set to check the weather in Greenland!

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3 thoughts on “Before you go to Greenland, check the weather!

  1. Thank you so much for the details on how to check the weather days before departure! It’s such a warm reminder and hope can be there someday! How’s the accommodation and food there?

    • Kah,

      I really hope you make it one day, too, given you’ve been inspired by Greenland for so many years!

      The accommodations are lovely with really many choices from 4 star hotels (in Ilulissat and Nuuk) to Seamen’s Homes and hostels to AirBnB rentals. No matter what you choose, there’s almost guaranteed to be a stellar view of the sea.

      As for food, there are so many delicious ingredients – local seafood (like prawns and salmon and halibut), local game (like reindeer and muskox), and local sea mammals (seal and whale). The plant life in Greenland’s Arctic terrain is a bit limited, but chefs usually try to spice up a dish with local herbs like angelica or thyme, and there’s plenty of imported vegetables to get some ruffage in there.

      Dining out options include fancy restaurants with plated course dinners, small cafes with casual fare, and grill bars when you crave hot dogs and hamburgers. There’s also Thai and sushi restaurants, and of course, the grocery store has all the ingredients you need to whip up your own creations.

  2. Pingback: PHOTO GALLERY: Hiking Ukkusissat: Good enough to do 2x in 24 hours! | Adventures of a Polarphile

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