Flying into Nuuk, you get very close to the mountains that surround Greenland’s capital – at times too close for comfort. The landing was rather bumpy too, but well worth the heart leap.
Even here, in Greenland’s biggest, most developed town, the natural beauty that surrounds it is breathtaking. It is nearing the end of summer here, it isn’t sunbathing weather, but the light is incredibly intense, even at seven in the evening.
It doesn’t feel like we are close to the Arctic Circle, and some of the biggest glaciers in the world. Is this the impact of global warming, or is it just an unusually warm day?
Well, climate change is one of the issues I am looking at while I am here. Just last month a giant iceberg four times the size of Manhattan snapped away from the Petermann ice shelf in the North West of Greenland. It was the largest Arctic break off in half a century and has got scientist around the world worried about what is going to happen next.
On the outskirts of Nuuk is the Greenland institute of natural resources – an extremely modern looking building that blends into the brown rocks behind it.
Inside we meet a group of scientists, the best in their field are working ’round the clock trying to find out what is causing the nation’s ice cap to recede. Leading them is Soren Rysgaard, a professor of climate impact.
He tells me all the evidence points to the warming of the ocean:
“We are trying to figure out how this import of warm water into the icecap is working.
“The icecaps and glaciers themselves are very cold, so if you import warm water, of course the glacier will heat up and start melting. So you will get icebergs out in the fjord that will melt in the fjord or be exported outside.
“When the glaciers melt, a lot of fresh water comes into the fjords and that drives an import of water.”
Some experts predict all of this could boost average sea levels in 2100 by between half a metre and a metre. A metre could drive hundreds of millions of people to higher ground.
It is a frightening prospect and one that may be unavoidable if the cause of the melting really is the heating up of the oceans.