UNLEASH Hack Greenland: Climate change in the Arctic

Increased rain, reduced sea ice and thawing permafrost are just some examples of how climate change already is profoundly impacting the Arctic. As these changes will continue to accelerate in the years to come, it is vital that we come up with solutions that encourage Arctic communities and industries to adapt to these changes now.

To frame concrete problems and develop solutions that address these changing weather patterns, 32 engineering students of the Extreme Climate and Physical Nature course at the Danish Technical University (DTU) Campus in the Greenlandic city of Sisimiut participated in an UNLEASH Hack as part of their studies this week.


With varied engineering backgrounds in everything from environmental and architectural, to civil and Arctic engineering, the group consisted of 7 different nationalities. They spent two days deep-diving into the UNLEASH Innovation Methodology and combined their technical expertise with human-centered design thinking to address these challenges.


One of the groups exploring the effects of thawing permafrost on Greenlandic infrastructure, investigated how the roads increasingly require maintenance as the ground they are built on becomes more and more uneven as ice melts and the foundation changes.

“The road between the city of Ilulissat and the airport is one of the areas facing this challenge. Our idea is to begin treating permafrost like we treat water. By building an arch bridge over the permafrost areas and using pile foundation with bedrock anchors fastened into the bedrock, it would decrease the amount of maintenance needed on the roads. This solution targets SDG 9; Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and it will make it safer for citizens to travel on to and from the airport,” Cecilie Pipaluk Hansen (Greenland), Valdemar Thonke (Denmark), Johannes Brask Dyerberg (Denmark) and Mads Nielsen (Denmark, living in Greenland) share.


Another team investigated how increased rain fall and extreme temperature shifts in Greenlandic settlements have led to more slippery roads and a rise in traffic accidents. To address this challenge, they propose installing dispenser systems along the roads that disperse crushed animal and fish bones (that otherwise would be discarded as waste) to increase road grip and thereby traffic safety.


Furthermore, a third team tackled how reduced sea ice has led to decreased food supply with the shortened hunting seasons, and investigated how engaging the local communities in seaweed production could act as a nutrient-rich supplement to their current fish and game dominated diets.


This UNLEASH Hack was supported by 11th Hour Racing, and took place in collaboration with DTU Arctic, Implement Consulting and Arctic Action.