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Greenland soars to its highest temperature ever recorded, almost 80 degrees F.

Update, September 10, 2013: After further review, official says the July 30 record high of 78.6 F set in Greenland – the warmest temperature since modern records began in 1958 – stands. Details: Confirmed: Greenland reached hottest temperature in modern record this summer

Update, August 12, 12:15 p.m.: This record may not be legitimate and is under review. See related post: Greenland may not have recorded its highest summer temperature

From August 1, 1:47 p.m.: The Danish Meteorological Institute is reporting that on Tuesday, July 30, the mercury rose to 25.9 C (78.6 F) at a station in Greenland, the highest temperature measured in the Arctic country since records began in 1958.

The balmy reading was logged at the observing station Maniitsoq / Sugar Loaf, which is on Greenland’s southwest coast, the DMI reports. It exceeded the 25.5 C (77.9 F) reading taken at  Kangerlussuaq on July 27, 1990, in the same general area. Mantiitsoq is Greenland’s sixth-largest town, with a 2010 population of 2,784.

4880007af6 Weather pattern responsible for record warmth in southwest Greenland (Danish Meteorological Institute)

The DMI says the record warmth was brought about by southeasterly winds, funneled by the flow between a large area of high pressure over continental Greenland, and low pressure over Baffin Island to the west.

It adds the warmth may have been enhanced by a phenomenon known as the Foehn Effect, in which air flows over nearby elevated terrain and compresses and heats on its way down. In this case, DMI believes the air may have passed over the elevated Sugar Loaf ice cap and then dried and warmed up as it descended (or downsloped) on its leeward side into Maniitsoq.

Via the Danish Meteorological Institute: "Satellite photo of the area around Maniitsoq and Sugar Loaf Mountain on Tuesday 30 July 2013. Photo from NASA's Terra satellite." Via the Danish Meteorological Institute: “Satellite photo of the area around Maniitsoq and Sugar Loaf Mountain on Tuesday 30 July 2013. Photo from NASA’s Terra satellite.”
(IPCC) Conceptual model of how a warming baseline climate increases the chance of record-breaking weather (IPCC)

The DMI says the warmth was not “unnatural”, but explains it fits into a long-term pattern of climate warming.

“[T]here is an indisputable gradual increase in temperature in Greenland,” DMI writes. “Along the way, any ‘warm event’ thus have a higher probability of being slightly warmer than the previous one.”

Related, from 2012: Greenland ice sheet surface melt: massive meltdown or meaningless trickle?

This warm temperature extreme in Greenland comes on the heels of an astonishing heat wave in northern Siberia.

Wunderground weather historian Christopher Burt described a “perhaps unprecedented” streak of 10 days in the central Arctic region of Russia in which temperatures exceeded 86 degrees F (30 C) in mid-to-late July.

Prior to this, it was the desert southwest reaching heat milestones.  Recall Death Valley set the record for hottest U.S. temperature ever recorded in June, climbing to a blistering 129 degrees.

At the moment, China is in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave.  And in Alaska, Fairbanks and Anchorage have ongoing historically long streaks of warm weather.

These heat events were all likely set up predominantly by the configuration of naturally varying weather patterns.  But  elevated greenhouse gas concentrations may well be tacking on a small warming contribution, nudging these extreme events into record territory.

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.
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