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Greenland’s Primary Airport is to become the latest victim of climate change


Kangerlussuaq Airport saw 11,000 movements last year but Greenland's primary airport is to end civilian flights within five years due to climate change, as the melting of permafrost is cracking the runway. 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.


Above: Kangerlussuaq (Greta Howard)


"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.

Above: Air Greenland's Airbus A330 operates the regular service from Copenhagen (Erick Again)

Kangerlussuaq, alongside Narsarsuaq Airport, is one of only two civilian airports in Greenland large enough to handle large longer-range airliners and is the international hub for Air Greenland. Many passengers transfer from the carriers Airbus A330 to smaller Dash-7s for an onward journey as the area is very remote, with a population of only around 500 people. The airport was built by the US and became quite well-known as Sondre Stromfjord Air Base and in the mid-1950s transatlantic civilian flights began using it for a refuelling stop. In 1956, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) flew their Polar route service with three flights a week operated by Douglas DC-6B aircraft from Copenhagen via Sondre Stromfjord and on to Winnipeg and Los Angel