Climate of Iceland

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Cars stuck in snow

The climate of Iceland is subpolar oceanic (Köppen climate classification Cfc)[1] near the southern coastal area and tundra (Köppen ET) inland in the highlands. The island lies in the path of the North Atlantic Current, which makes its climate more temperate than would be expected for its latitude just south of the Arctic Circle. This effect is aided by the Irminger Current, which also helps to moderate the island's temperature.[2] The weather in Iceland is notoriously variable.[3]

The aurora borealis is often visible at night during the winter. The midnight sun can be experienced in summer on the island of Grímsey off the north coast; the remainder of the country, since it lies just south of the polar circle, experiences a twilight period during which the sun sets briefly, but still has around two weeks of continuous daylight during the summer.

Seasons[edit]

Winter[edit]

The Icelandic winter is relatively mild for its latitude, owing to maritime influence and proximity to the warm currents of the North Atlantic Gyre. The southerly lowlands of the island average around 0 °C (32 °F) in winter, while the north averages around −10 °C (14 °F). The lowest temperatures in the northern part of the island range from around −25 to −30 °C (−13 to −22 °F). The lowest temperature on record is −39.7 °C (−39.5 °F).[4]

Summer[edit]

The average July temperature in the southern part of the island is 10–13 °C (50–55 °F). Warm summer days can reach 20–25 °C (68–77 °F).[4] The highest temperature recorded was 30.5 °C (86.9 °F) in the Eastern fjords in 1939. Annual average sunshine hours in Reykjavík are around 1300, which is similar to towns in Scotland and Ireland.[5]

Winds and storms[edit]

Iceland, especially inland and during winter, is frequently subject to abrupt and dramatic changes in weather that can sharply reduce visibility, as well as rapidly increasing wind speed and precipitation, and shift temperature.

Generally, wind speeds tend to be higher in the highlands, but topographical features can aggravate winds and cause strong gusts in lowland areas. Wind speed in the lowlands reaches 18 m/s (65 km/h) on 10–20 days per year, but on upwards of 50 days per year in places in the highlands.[4] The strongest measured 10-minute sustained wind speed is 62.5 m/s (225 km/h) and the strongest gust 74.2 m/s (267 km/h).[6] Heavy dust storms can be generated by strong glacial winds, and can be very strong. Up to 10 tonnes (11 short tons) of material can be in motion per transect per hour. These storms are very frequent in the early summer in the arid highland areas north of the Vatnajökull glacier.[7]

Thunderstorms are extremely rare for any specific location in Iceland, with fewer than five storms per year in the southern part of the island. They are most common in early or late summer. They can be caused by warm air masses coming up from Europe, or deep lows from the southwest in wintertime. Lightning can usually be observed in connection with ash plumes erupting from the island's volcanoes.[8] Vortices, sometimes on the scale of tornadoes, also occur with volcanic eruptions. Landspouts and waterspouts are occasionally observed. Classic mesocyclone derived tornadoes (i.e. forming from supercells) are very rare, but have been observed. Any of these do occasionally cause damage, although the sparse population further reduces the probability of detection and the hazard.[9][10]

Atmospheric pressure[edit]

There is a persistent area of low pressure near Iceland known as the Icelandic Low, found between Iceland and Greenland. This area affects the amount of air brought into the Arctic to the east, and the amount coming out of the Arctic to the west.[11] It is part of a greater pressure system known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).[12]

Climatic data[edit]

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 11.6
(52.9)
10.2
(50.4)
14.2
(57.6)
17.1
(62.8)
20.6
(69.1)
22.4
(72.3)
25.7
(78.3)
24.8
(76.6)
20.1
(68.2)
15.7
(60.3)
12.7
(54.9)
12.0
(53.6)
25.7
(78.3)
Average high °C (°F) 3.1
(37.6)
3.3
(37.9)
4.0
(39.2)
6.8
(44.2)
9.8
(49.6)
12.7
(54.9)
14.6
(58.3)
13.9
(57.0)
11.1
(52.0)
7.5
(45.5)
4.5
(40.1)
3.3
(37.9)
7.9
(46.2)
Daily mean °C (°F) 0.7
(33.3)
0.6
(33.1)
1.2
(34.2)
3.7
(38.7)
6.7
(44.1)
9.8
(49.6)
11.6
(52.9)
11.0
(51.8)
8.2
(46.8)
4.9
(40.8)
2.2
(36.0)
0.8
(33.4)
5.1
(41.2)
Average low °C (°F) −1.8
(28.8)
−1.9
(28.6)
−1.3
(29.7)
1.2
(34.2)
3.9
(39.0)
7.7
(45.9)
8.8
(47.8)
8.7
(47.7)
5.9
(42.6)
2.7
(36.9)
−0.2
(31.6)
−1.6
(29.1)
2.7
(36.8)
Record low °C (°F) −24.5
(−12.1)
−17.6
(0.3)
−16.4
(2.5)
−16.4
(2.5)
−7.7
(18.1)
−0.7
(30.7)
1.4
(34.5)
−0.4
(31.3)
−4.4
(24.1)
−10.6
(12.9)
−15.1
(4.8)
−16.8
(1.8)
−24.5
(−12.1)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 83.0
(3.27)
85.9
(3.38)
81.4
(3.20)
56.0
(2.20)
52.8
(2.08)
43.8
(1.72)
52.3
(2.06)
67.3
(2.65)
73.5
(2.89)
74.4
(2.93)
78.8
(3.10)
94.1
(3.70)
843.3
(33.20)
Average snowfall cm (inches) 19.9
(7.8)
17.1
(6.7)
23.2
(9.1)
12.1
(4.8)
1.6
(0.6)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
1.4
(0.6)
8.7
(3.4)
17.8
(7.0)
101.8
(40.1)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 15 14 14 11 10 9 10 11 15 13 13 14 149
Average snowy days 14 12 12 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 7 13 62
Average relative humidity (%) 78.1 77.1 76.2 74.4 74.9 77.9 80.3 81.6 79.0 78.0 77.7 77.7 77.8
Average dew point °C (°F) −3
(27)
−3
(27)
−3
(27)
−1
(30)
2
(36)
6
(43)
8
(46)
8
(46)
5
(41)
1
(34)
−1
(30)
−3
(27)
1
(35)
Mean monthly sunshine hours 20 60 109 164 201 174 168 155 120 93 41 22 1,326
Percent possible sunshine 12 25 29 36 35 28 28 31 31 31 21 16 27
Average ultraviolet index 0 0 1 2 3 4 4 3 2 1 0 0 2
Source 1: Icelandic Met Office (snowy days 1971–2000)[13][14][15]
Source 2: timeanddate.com (sunshine percent and dewpoints),[16] Weather Atlas, (UV)[17] and Meteo Climat[18]
Climate data for Akureyri, 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1949–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 17.5
(63.5)
14.5
(58.1)
15.2
(59.4)
21.5
(70.7)
24.6
(76.3)
29.4
(84.9)
27.6
(81.7)
27.7
(81.9)
23.6
(74.5)
19.5
(67.1)
17.5
(63.5)
15.1
(59.2)
29.4
(84.9)
Average high °C (°F) 1.9
(35.4)
2.1
(35.8)
2.8
(37.0)
5.7
(42.3)
10.0
(50.0)
13.5
(56.3)
15.0
(59.0)
14.6
(58.3)
11.0
(51.8)
6.0
(42.8)
3.3
(37.9)
2.4
(36.3)
7.4
(45.3)
Daily mean °C (°F) −1.2
(29.8)
−1.3
(29.7)
−0.6
(30.9)
2.0
(35.6)
5.9
(42.6)
9.4
(48.9)
11.1
(52.0)
10.7
(51.3)
7.3
(45.1)
3.0
(37.4)
0.3
(32.5)
−0.8
(30.6)
3.8
(38.8)
Average low °C (°F) −4.3
(24.3)
−4.2
(24.4)
−3.3
(26.1)
−0.9
(30.4)
2.9
(37.2)
6.4
(43.5)
8.4
(47.1)
7.8
(46.0)
4.7
(40.5)
0.6
(33.1)
−2.5
(27.5)
−3.9
(25.0)
1.0
(33.8)
Record low °C (°F) −21.6
(−6.9)
−21.2
(−6.2)
−23.0
(−9.4)
−18.2
(−0.8)
−10.4
(13.3)
−2.1
(28.2)
1.3
(34.3)
−2.2
(28.0)
−8.4
(16.9)
−13.6
(7.5)
−18.5
(−1.3)
−20.6
(−5.1)
−23.0
(−9.4)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 60.7
(2.39)
50.6
(1.99)
49.7
(1.96)
28.5
(1.12)
22.2
(0.87)
20.7
(0.81)
32.1
(1.26)
41.5
(1.63)
46.8
(1.84)
72.2
(2.84)
58.8
(2.31)
57.0
(2.24)
540.7
(21.29)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 11.1 8.3 9.8 6.2 4.8 6.4 7.3 7.1 7.9 11.0 10.9 11.3 102.5
Average relative humidity (%) 79.4 79.3 78.9 75.7 73.4 73.2 77.8 78.3 77.4 81.2 80.8 79.5 77.9
Average dew point °C (°F) −4
(25)
−4
(25)
−4
(25)
−2
(28)
1
(34)
4
(39)
7
(45)
7
(45)
4
(39)
0
(32)
−2
(28)
−4
(25)
0
(33)
Mean monthly sunshine hours 6.7 34.0 74.2 121.6 165.3 189.9 150.9 132.8 85.4 46.1 14.8 0.2 1,028.6
Source 1: Icelandic Met Office (precipitation days 1961–1990)[19][20][21]
Source 2: Time and Date (dewpoints, 1985-2015)[22]


Climate Change[edit]

750 square kilometers of Iceland’s glacier ice has melted since the year 2000.[23] Iceland’s annual CO2 emissions and per capita CO2 emissions rose from 1950 to 2018,[by how much?] but both metrics have been on the decline since 2018. A majority of Iceland’s CO2 emissions come from oil.[24]

Most Icelandic glaciers began retreating in the late 1800s, but current modeling studies suggest that glaciers would lose a quarter of their volume in the next hundred years with just a 1°C rise in global temperatures. The models also predict that glaciers could lose sixty percent of their volume if global temperatures rise by 2°C. At this rate, only small ice caps will remain after two hundred years.[25] Some models predict Iceland's glacial mass will shrink a third by 2100.[26]

Iceland’s retreating glaciers have global and local consequences. Melting of Iceland’s glaciers could raise sea levels by a centimeter,[27] which could lead to erosion and flooding worldwide.[28] Locally, glacial recession could cause crustal uplift,[27] which could disrupt buildings. Some places in Iceland have already seen the crust rise at a rate of 40 millimeters per year.[27]

Okjökull[edit]

Okjokull is a glacier in Iceland that melted in 2014. Okjokull is Iceland's first glacier to have melted due to climate change.[29]

Name Change[edit]

Geologists estimate that Okjokull covered about 6 square miles in the late 1800s,[30] but slowly shrunk until it officially lost its glacier status in 2014. When it "died", the 800 year old[30] glacier's name was changed from Okjokull to Ok. Okjokull was pronounced dead in part due to its decrease in area, but also due to its inability to flow;[31] a body of ice must be able to move to be defined as a glacier.[32] “Jokull” means glacier in Icelandic,[33] so this suffix was removed accordingly.

Funeral[edit]

In 2018, a documentary called Not Ok was released by Rice University anthropologists four years after its death.[34] In 2019, roughly one hundred people held a funeral for Okjokull. Iceland’s prime minister at the time, Katrin Jakobsdottir, was among the attendees.[34]

At the funeral, one high school student read a poem and a commemorative plaque, titled "A letter to the future,"[35] was placed on a boulder. As of 2022, this plaque was the only one commemorating a glacier lost to climate change.[35] The plaque warned future readers that all of Iceland's glaciers would soon "follow the same path" as Okjokull.

Sustainability[edit]

In an effort to combat the effects climate change has on Iceland’s glaciers, Iceland has worked to make its electricity completely sustainable. As of 2015, nearly all of its electricity comes from renewable energy. Thirteen percent of the country’s electricity comes from geothermal energy—which also heats ninety percent of Iceland’s homes— and the rest comes from hydropower.[36]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Koppen climate classification | climatology". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
  2. ^ "Climate in Iceland". notendur.hi.is. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
  3. ^ weatheronline.co.uk. "Climate of the World: Iceland | weatheronline.co.uk". www.weatheronline.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
  4. ^ a b c "The dynamic climate of Iceland". University of Iceland.
  5. ^ "Sunrise and sunset times in Reykjavik". www.timeanddate.com. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
  6. ^ "Icelandic weather records". Icelandic Met Office (in Icelandic). Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  7. ^ "Seasons and Climate | Iceland Travel | Weather in Iceland". Iceland Travel. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
  8. ^ "Iceland —". www.noonsite.com. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
  9. ^ Antonescu, Bogdan; D. M. Schultz; F. Lomas (2016). "Tornadoes in Europe: Synthesis of the Observational Datasets". Mon. Wea. Rev. 144 (7): 2445–2480. doi:10.1175/MWR-D-15-0298.1.
  10. ^ "Tornadoes leave South Iceland farm in ruins". Iceland Monitor. Reykjavík: Morgunblaðið. 27 August 2018. Retrieved 2019-02-10.
  11. ^ Hanna, Edward; Jónsson, Trausti; Box, Jason E. (2004-08-01). "An analysis of Icelandic climate since the nineteenth century". International Journal of Climatology. 24 (10): 1193–1210. doi:10.1002/joc.1051. ISSN 1097-0088.
  12. ^ "Climate Prediction Center - Teleconnections: North Atlantic Oscillation". www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
  13. ^ "Monthly Averages for Reykjavík". Icelandic Meteorological Office. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  14. ^ "Annual Averages for Reykjavík". Icelandic Met Office. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  15. ^ "Fréttir". Icelandic Meteorological Office. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  16. ^ "Reykjavík, Iceland – Sunrise, Sunset, and Daylength". timeanddate.com. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  17. ^ "Monthly weather forecast and climate – Reykjavík, Iceland". Weather Atlas. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  18. ^ "STATION REYKJAVIK". Meteo climat. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  19. ^ "Monthly Averages for Akureyri". Icelandic Meteorological Office. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  20. ^ "Annual Averages for Akureyri". Icelandic Met Office. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  21. ^ "Akureyri 1961–1990 Averages". Icelandic Meteorological Office. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  22. ^ "Climate & Weather Averages in Akureyri". Time and Date. Retrieved 24 July 2022.
  23. ^ "In Iceland, Melting Glaciers Give Way to Plant Life". State of the Planet. 2021-02-24. Retrieved 2022-10-05.
  24. ^ Ritchie, Hannah; Roser, Max; Rosado, Pablo (2020-05-11). "CO₂ and Greenhouse Gas Emissions". Our World in Data.
  25. ^ Park, Vatnajokull National. "Response of glaciers to climate change". Vatnajokull National Park. Retrieved 2022-10-05.
  26. ^ "EarthSky | Blue Blob has slowed Iceland's ice melt, for now". earthsky.org. 2022-02-17. Retrieved 2022-10-03.
  27. ^ a b c Park, Vatnajokull National. "Consequences of retreating glaciers". Vatnajokull National Park. Retrieved 2022-10-05.
  28. ^ "Sea-Level Rise & Global Climate Change: A Review of Impacts to U.S. Coasts". Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Retrieved 2022-10-11.
  29. ^ McKenna, Cara (August 18, 2021). "FUNERAL HELD FOR ICELAND'S OKJOKULL GLACIER; MOMENT IN TIME". The Globe and Mail.
  30. ^ a b "The last of ice; Okjokull". The Economist. 432 (9161). September 21, 2019.
  31. ^ "Okjökull Remembered". earthobservatory.nasa.gov. 2019-08-09. Retrieved 2022-10-03.
  32. ^ "Iceland to Commemorate the Demise of Okjökull Glacier". State of the Planet. 2019-08-01. Retrieved 2022-10-03.
  33. ^ Akdemir, Mary (September 2019). "Ice, Abolished". Nation. 309 (5): 6.
  34. ^ a b "The last of ice; Okjokull". The Economist. 432 (9161). September 21, 2019.
  35. ^ a b Richard, Jeremie. "Iceland commemorates first glacier lost to climate change". phys.org. Retrieved 2022-10-03.
  36. ^ "🇮🇸 Iceland's nature allows for 100% renewable energy". Warp News. 2021-01-08. Retrieved 2022-10-05.

External links[edit]