Denmark consists of the peninsula of Jutland and a group of islands at the entrance to the Baltic Sea, between Norway and Sweden to its north and northeast, and Germany to the south. It has two self-governing dependencies - Greenland and the Faeroe Islands.
Greenland has an area four times as large as France or the state of Texas, and is situated between 60° and 83°N so that three-quarters of the country lies within the Arctic Circle. Only about 16% of its area is free from permanent snow and ice. These ice-free areas consist of high mountains around the coast through which great glaciers descend to deposit masses of ice in the surrounding seas. They are main source of icebergs in the North Atlantic. The northern shores are permanently blocked by sea ice. Baffin Bay on the west of Greenland has more open water in winter than the Greenland Sea to the east.
The table for Nuuk on the west coast is representative of the coasts of Greenland. Winters are long and severe and summers very short and cool. Precipitation, mostly snow, is moderately heavy around the coasts so that the icecap is continuously replenished.
The interior of the country consists of a great icecap up to 3,000 m/10,000 ft thick; it is the largest accumulation of snow and ice in the northern hemisphere. The table for Qaanaaq in the north of Greenland is representative of most of the interior icecap. This has a true Arctic climate, with temperatures only above freezing for brief periods in the summer. There are occasional relatively warm summer days when the weather may feel quite pleasant if the wind is light or calm and the sun is shining. The low precipitation at Qaanaaq is probably typical of much of the interior icecap.
Conditions are most hazardous when there is a combination of low temperature and strong wind and, consequently, a high wind chill. Strong winds are often a feature of the winter weather on the coast as very cold air from the interior is funnelled down the glaciated valleys when a North Atlantic depression passes near the coast. The Greenland icecap is the source of some of the coldest air to affect northwest Europe.
The Faeroe Islands
This small group of islands is situated in the stormiest part of the North Atlantic, midway between Scotland and Iceland. Under the influence of the warm ocean current of the Gulf Stream, the climate is very mild for the latitude. The table for Hoyvik is representative of the Faeroes.
Winters in the Faeroes are warmer than those in Denmark, 6° of latitude to the south. The islands are cloudy, wet, and windy throughout the year, for they lie in the path of the majority of Atlantic depressions. They are never very cold for long in winter and the summers are cool and sunless. Daily sunshine in the summer months averages only about four hours.
Denmark's cool maritime climate is rather similar to that of Britain or the state of Washington. Because of its small size and low elevation - no part of Denmark is higher than 180 m/600 ft - weather and climate do not vary much throughout the country.
Spells of cold weather occur in most winters when the waters of the Baltic freeze in whole or in part. In some winters such spells may be prolonged. If this happens the waters of the Sound between Zealand and south Sweden may freeze. The average duration of winter snow cover is about thirty days but in some winters there may be little snow.
Conditions in summer are variable from year to year and from day to day. Although spells of warm, settled weather may last for a few weeks in some years, it rarely becomes unpleasantly hot. Precipitation occurs all the year round, but summer and autumn are the wettest seasons. The west coast (see the table for Fanø island) is a little wetter than the east (see the table for Copenhagen).
When Atlantic storms cross the country or move into the North Sea, quite severe gales may affect Denmark, and the west coast has the reputation of being particularly exposed and windswept. Such gales may occur at all times of the year but are less frequent and less severe in summer. Denmark has a generally pleasant climate the year round and, apart from the occasional cold winter, rarely suffers extremes of weather. Daily sunshine hours range from between one and two in winter to about eight in summer.
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