Living in Kulusuk, Greenland, requires having a high tolerance for overcast skies. They are clear less than 10 percent of the year, and there is more than a forty percent chance that precipitation will fall on any given day. Winters last from November to April and tend to be cloudy, windy, and cold (average low of -7°C or 19°F). The shortest day of the year (December 21) provides just three hours of sunlight.
The long days of summer do offer some respite. On the longest day of the year (June 20), the town basks in more than 23 hours of sunlight. Daily summer highs average about 8°C (47°F).
The sharp contrast in weather makes for dramatic seasonal changes on the landscape. During winter, the waters around Kulusuk are choked with pack ice. That ice thins during the warmer months, opening the settlement up to boat traffic. However, it’s the airport a few kilometers east of town that provides the most critical link to the world. The airport’s gravel runway is visible in the satellite view shown above from the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite.
Planes and helicopters bring critical supplies to Kulusuk, but increasingly they also bring tourists eager for a glimpse of Greenland’s scenery. The raw beauty of Kulusuk was captured in the second image by Andrew Bossi, one of the winners of a photography contest sponsored by the Global Precipitation Mission. An engineer and avid traveler, Bossi arrived in Kulusuk near the peak of summer, when only a thin layer of ice covered the waters of the harbor. He took this photo on June 9, 2011, about 5 years after the satellite shot. Bossi was facing north when he took a photograph of this house along the shore.
The GPM satellite is scheduled to launch in 2014 and will make global observations of rain and snow. This is the mission’s second photography contest; the first focused on extreme weather. The mission is also running an anime contest focused on precipitation that is currently accepting submissions.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using ALI data from the EO-1 Team. Caption by Adam Voiland.
Residents of a hardscrabble town in southeastern Greenland rely on hunting, an airport, and tourism to survive in an unforgiving climate. In the peak of winter, the town’s northerly location means it sees just a few hours of sunlight per day.