Greenland May Lose Airport to Warming, Permafrost Melt

November 17, 2019

Arctic infrastructure depends on the solid surface provided by permafrost. But what happens when that formerly reliable foundation begins to melt due to climate warming?

Potential to lose not only an airport, but important staging area for scientists working on the nearby ice.

Above, my interview with Alun Hubbard from 2013, at Kangerlussuaq.


Greenland’s main airport is set to end civilian flights within five years due to climate change, as the melting of permafrost is cracking the runway.

Kangerlussuaq Airport, the country’s main hub, had 11,000 planes landing or departing last year.

Permafrost, the layer of soil usually frozen solid, is shrinking as temperatures rise. For airport workers, ridding the runway of the snow and ice has become a constant struggle.

As a result, authorities will start building a new facility from scratch.

“They are constructing a new airport in Nuuk and in the north …. and the Danish Airforce will take over responsibility for this airport,” said airport manager Peter Høgh.

Greenland is the world’s largest island roughly and around 80 per cent of the surface is covered in ice sheet.

But global warming is drastically reshaping Greenland, causing the ice sheet to melt at a faster rate than previously thought, according to recent research.

The airport’s situation shows how the built environment, and not just the natural environment, is being hit by climate change.

Here, my profile of researcher Vena Chu, working in the area near Kangerlussuaq.

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