Greenland is subject to growing attention from abroad. On top of an awe-inspiring landscape, the establishment of self-rule and plans about the emergence of new industry and mining, the effects of climate change on the Greenland Ice sheet plays a role in attracting attention and pulling new tourists to the country. The country has registered a rise in the number of visitors in recent years and with a new branding of Greenland as Pioneering Nation, the aspiration is to increase the inflow of tourists even more.
Ice Fjord and Glacier
The ice fjord by Ilulissat is attracting many visitors. In 2004, the Kangia Ice Fjord was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and since then the number of visitors has increased steadily. In particular, cruise tourism has experienced a marked growth and in 2010, the area was visited by three times the number of cruise tourists compared with just five years earlier.
The glacier Sermeq Kujalleq, which ends in the Ice Fjord, has become a symbol of climate change. In the course of only ten years, the velocity of the glacier has doubled and today it moves around 40 meters a day. This makes it one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world. At the same time, the glacier remains one of the few places in which the Greenland Ice Sheet reaches all the way to the ocean. You can view the Ice Fjord here.
The symbolic value of the Ice Fjord has helped to increase interest in the stunning Greenlandic landscape and the climatic changes that affect it. In addition to pulling many tourists to the area, the glacier is visited by climate researchers from all over the world. Sermeq Kujalleq is the most researched glacier globally and has contributed to knowledge about glacier activity and about the effects of climate change on the Greenland Ice Sheet.
Despite the growing attention, there is as yet no consensus as to whether the high velocity of the glacier can be explained exclusively on the basis of climate change. Some researchers believe that the rising temperatures affect an increase in the amount of melt water below the glacier, which augments its speed, but there can also be other variables that influence its movement. You can read more about the debate among researchers here.
Not fewer icebergs, but more…
Counter to the imaginary image of melting and disappearing icebergs, reality shows that the augmented glacier activity increases the number of icebergs in the fjord. As the rate of melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet accelerates, so does the speed of calving of the glacier and in this way, more icebergs are produced than previously. The Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier produces 10% of all icebergs in Greenland and its productivity is expected to continue accelerating in the future.
The Ice Fjord offers exactly what many tourists are curious to experience – an awe-inspiring impression of what nature has to offer. The many great icebergs and the awareness that the speed of change is accelerating at a rapid rate add to the image of an Arctic in transformation – despite the fact that a more complex reality often hides behind.