, rainfall, when to go, what to pack
, the climate is
cold, windy and cloudy
for most of the year. Of course, it's a cold country because of the high latitude, and it can receive cold winds from the North Pole, but it's also tempered by the ocean, as well as by the mild Gulf Stream that flows in it. The result is a perpetually unstable climate, with sudden changes in weather and
, but with a limited
range, both between day and night and between winter and summer. Calm and sunny periods are rare. The northern coastal area is colder than the southern one because it is not reached by the Gulf Stream.
is more abundant on the southern side, where it exceeds 1,300 millimeters (50 inches) per year, and reaches up to 2,400 millimeters (95 in) in the most exposed areas (see
Vík í Mýrdal
), while it's much more scarce on the north coast and on the north side of the inner plateau, so much so that it descends below 500 mm (20 in) per year, although it is well distributed throughout the year. Along the west coast, the amount of precipitation is at an intermediate level; for instance, Reykjavik, receives about 800 mm (31.5 in) of rain or snow each year. On the southern slopes of the highest mountains, precipitation, which almost always takes the form of snow, can exceed 4,000 mm (155 in) per year.
is the land of ice, fire and deserts. In the interior, there are vast
, from which ice tongues descend towards the plains, while geothermal activity causes the presence of geysers and hot water springs, where people can bathe even if there is snow around; on the other hand, underground volcanic activity may cause sudden melting of glaciers, with the risk of flooding. It's worth noting the almost total absence of trees, as well as the presence of sandy soils in inland areas, where strong winds can cause dust storms.
In inland areas, there are
plateaus and mountains
, where the
naturally decreases with altitude. Because of the cold summers and the heavy snowfalls, snow only melts at low altitude, so the snowline is low, around 700 meters (2,300 feet) above sea level. However,
's glaciers are shrinking due to global warming.
glacier is a plateau about 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) high, and about 380 meters (1,250 ft) thick, below which there are several volcanoes. The highest peak in
, which is part of
volcano, is located in the southern limit of
, and is 2,110 high meters (6,920 ft) high.
is not so cold, in fact, the
in plains and coasts is around the freezing point. This means that the temperatures can exceed 0 °C (32 °F) quite often even in winter, and rain can fall instead of snow.
Along the northern coast, winter is colder by a few degrees, and sometimes the sea can freeze inside fjords.
In inland areas, winter is even colder, especially with increasing altitude. Here, for example, are the
temperatures of the geothermal site of Hveravellir, located in the interior of the island, at an altitude of 640 meters (2,100 ft). Here, the
can drop to -15 °C (5 °F) or below from November to April.
Hveravellir - Average temperatures Month Min (°C) Max (°C) Mean (°C) Min (°F) Max (°F) Mean (°F) January -8 -2 -5.2 17 28 22.6 February -10 -3 -6.7 13 26 19.9 March -10 -3 -6.4 14 27 20.5 April -5 0 -2.5 22 33 27.5 May -1 5 2.3 30 42 36.1 June 2 10 6.3 36 50 43.3 July 5 12 8.5 41 54 47.3 August 5 12 8.4 41 54 47.1 September 2 8 4.6 35 46 40.4 October -3 2 -0.3 27 36 31.4 November -6 0 -3.4 20 31 25.8 December -8 -1 -4.6 18 29 23.7 Year -3.2 3.4 0.1 26.3 38.1 32
Snowfalls are plentiful along the southern slopes, while they are frequent but less abundant elsewhere. Winter is in any case very long, and the
increases very slowly over the months. In April, daytime temperatures are still around 6 °C (43 °F) in Reykjavik. Across
, it can snow from October to May; along the northern coasts, sudden snow showers may occur even in June and September, while in inland areas, this can happen even in midsummer because of the altitude.
During winter, cold air masses from Greenland can lower the temperatures to around -10/-15 °C (5/14 °F), however, these cold spells are short lived because after a while the mild winds from the south begin to blow again. Cold records are not so low, at least for the latitude, in fact they are around -20 °C (-4 °F) along the coast, while they go down to -30 °C (-22 °F) in inland areas.
is very cool throughout
. In Reykjavík, during the warmest months, July and August, lows are around 9 °C (48 °F) and highs around 14 °C (57 °F), while on the north coast they are around 10/12 °C (50/54 °F). On the other hand, the days are very long. In
, it practically never gets hot: the
rises rarely and for short periods above 20 °C (68 °F). The highest records along the coast are around 26 °C (79 °F), while in some sheltered inland areas they are around 28 °C (82 °F).
Along the coasts we find the main cities of
. However, Reykjavík is the only city of some importance.
, is located on the south-west coast of the island. Here are the
Reykjavik - Average temperatures Month Min (°C) Max (°C) Mean (°C) Min (°F) Max (°F) Mean (°F) January -2 2 0 28 36 32 February -2 3 0.5 28 37 32.9 March -2 3 0.5 28 37 32.9 April 1 6 3.5 34 43 38.3 May 4 10 7 39 50 44.6 June 7 12 9.5 45 54 49.1 July 9 14 11.5 48 57 52.7 August 9 14 11.5 48 57 52.7 September 6 11 8.5 43 52 47.3 October 2 7 4.5 36 45 40.1 November 0 4 2 32 39 35.6 December -2 3 0.5 28 37 32.9 Year 2.5 7.4 4.95 36.5 45.4 41
As mentioned, in Reykjavik, about 800 mm (31.5 in) of rain or snow fall per year. Here is the
Reykjavik - Average precipitation Month Millimeters Inches Days January 75 3 13 February 70 2.8 13 March 80 3.1 14 April 60 2.4 12 May 45 1.8 10 June 50 2 11 July 50 2 10 August 60 2.4 12 September 65 2.6 12 October 85 3.3 15 November 75 3 13 December 80 3.1 14 Year 800 31.5 148
The amount of
is not good, but it is generally passable in late spring and summer, also because of the very long days, while it is decidedly low in November in January, when the sun hardly ever shows up (also because the days are very short).
Reykjavik - Sunshine hours Month Average Total January 0.5 20 February 2 55 March 3.5 110 April 5.5 165 May 6.5 200 June 6 175 July 5.5 175 August 5 155 September 4 120 October 3 90 November 1.5 40 December 0.5 10 Year 3.6 1315
is cold throughout the year: the water
near Reykjavik ranges from 5 °C (41 °F) in February to 10 °C (50 °F) in July and August, so it's preferable to bathe in thermal pools...
Reykjavik - Sea temperature Month Celsius (°C) Fahrenheit (°F) January 6 42 February 5 42 March 5 41 April 5 42 May 6 44 June 8 47 July 10 50 August 10 51 September 9 49 October 8 46 November 7 44 December 6 43 Year 7.3 45.1
On the southern coast (see Vík í Mýrdal and the Vestmann Islands), the sea
reaches up to 12 °C (53.5 °F) in August.
, the second largest city of the country, is located on the north coast, although within a fjord. Here, the monthly
ranges from -1 °C (30 °F) in January and February to 12 °C (53 °F) in July. Here are the
Akureyri - Average temperatures Month Min (°C) Max (°C) Mean (°C) Min (°F) Max (°F) Mean (°F) January -4 2 -1.2 24 35 29.9 February -4 2 -1 25 36 30.2 March -3 3 -0.2 26 37 31.6 April -1 6 2.6 31 42 36.6 May 3 10 6.6 38 50 43.9 June 7 14 10.1 44 56 50.2 July 9 15 11.8 47 59 53.2 August 8 14 11.4 47 58 52.4 September 5 11 7.9 41 52 46.2 October 1 6 3.4 33 43 38.1 November -2 3 0.5 28 38 32.8 December -4 2 -0.7 26 36 30.8 Year 1.2 7.3 4.3 34.2 45.2 39.5
Being sheltered from the south wind, Akureyri is located in the least rainy area of
; in fact, precipitation amounts to 500 mm (19.5 in) per year. Here is the
Akureyri - Average precipitation Month Millimeters Inches Days January 55 2.2 11 February 40 1.6 8 March 45 1.8 10 April 30 1.2 6 May 20 0.8 5 June 30 1.2 6 July 35 1.4 7 August 35 1.4 7 September 40 1.6 8 October 60 2.4 11 November 55 2.2 11 December 55 2.2 11 Year 485 19.1 102
On the north coast, the sea is colder, so much so that its
only reaches 8 °C (46.5 °F) in August. Here are the
sea temperatures in Akureyri.
Akureyri - Sea temperature Month Celsius (°C) Fahrenheit (°F) January 4 38 February 3 38 March 3 38 April 3 38 May 4 40 June 6 44 July 8 46 August 8 47 September 7 45 October 6 42 November 5 40 December 4 39 Year 5.2 41.3
On the islet of
, north of Akureyri, and on the
to the south-west, the daytime temperatures in summer are lower; in fact, highs are just around 11 °C (52 °F) in July and August. This shows that when you go on boat trips, you can easily encounter cold and windy weather even in summer.
As in all the Nordic countries, the
length of the day
has a significant effect on human activities: the months of late autumn and early winter are characterized by endless nights and very short days, when the sun remains very low above the horizon even at noon. In Reykjavík, at the winter solstice (21 December) the sun rises around 11:20 am and sets around 3:30 pm. By February, the days are longer than in the period from November to January, even though the
is not higher.
In summer, the days are long especially in June, when it doesn't get completely dark even at midnight, and in the north, around the
(June 21) the sun does not set at all, since the extreme north of
touches the Arctic Circle. On the small island of Grimsey, which is right on the Arctic Circle, at the summer solstice the sun remains just above the horizon at the moment when it is lower (which happens actually around 1 a.m.).
On the island of
, the points closer to the Arctic Circle are the northeast (see
) and the northwest (see Ísafjörður), which are very close to the Arctic Circle. Thanks to the phenomenon called atmospheric refraction, the sun at midnight (or rather at one in the morning) can also be seen at Ísafjörður (from June 12 to July 1st), at Raufarhöfn (from June 8 to July 6), and in Húsavík (from June 13 to July 1st).
More to the south, already in Akureyri, the sun goes slightly below the horizon around 1 a.m. also at the solstice, while in Reykjavík, the sun goes below the horizon from midnight to 3 a.m, although it does not get completely dark.
The latter phenomenon, called
, whereby the sun goes below the horizon but remains close enough, so much so that there are still sunset lights even at midnight, in Reykjavik lasts from April 27 to August 15.
, like the rest of the world, is affected by global warming. As a result, the time of year when it snows gradually becomes shorter.
also become less intense and less frequent.
are in retreat, and in recent decades, the extent has decreased from 10% of
's surface to 8%. The smaller glaciers are at risk of disappearing, as has already happened to the Ok glacier (
), which disappeared recently.
can disappear, as happened to the Skeiðará River. Instead, the melting of the glaciers causes the
that are nearby to enlarge while receiving more water from them.
The retreat of the glaciers causes the
uplift of the land
, due to the decrease in the weight of the ice. As a result, the sea level drops, especially in the central-southern part of
, where the land uplift reaches 3.5 centimeters (1.4 inches) per year. Since the 1930s, the earth has already risen by half a meter (20 in). This creates problems, for example ports become smaller and room for large ships is reduced. Furthermore, it is feared that the volcanoes and seismic faults that run through
could be destabilized by this ground movement.
On the plus side, the higher
makes it possible to increase
, and in particular the cultivation of cereals.
On the other hand, as far as
is concerned, while some species of fish and crustaceans living in cold waters move north, other species coming from the south such as mackerel are becoming more and more frequent in Icelandic waters.
The best time to visit
, from June to August. Spring is cold and it's quite similar to winter, with frequent snowfalls and frosts, but the days are longer than in autumn.
skiing and cross-country skiing
of March is preferable to the beginning of winter because the days are longer.
To observe the
(aurora borealis), since it must be night, the best time is from November to January, when the nights are longer.
What to pack
: bring warm clothes, a fleece, a down jacket, a hat, a scarf, gloves, a wind jacket, a raincoat or umbrella, hiking boots, swimsuit.
: bring a sweater, a shirt, a jacket, a hat, a scarf, hiking boots, rubber boots for hiking in the interior, a raincoat or umbrella, a windbreaker, swimsuit.