Thursday, June 22, 2017

Icelandic Meteorology and Scenery

Greetings from Reykjavik.  I am on a 2-week trip to Iceland involving a week of vacation to drive and hike around the Ring Road, which encircles the island, and attend the International Conference on Alpine Meteorology.  I return to Salt Lake and the blistering heat of the American Southwest on Saturday.  Over the past 12 days, I haven't seen a temperature above 15ºC (59ºF).  Wonderful!

Iceland is a spectacular country and a great place for a meteorologists (and geologists).  Think of it as a larger, lower version of Hawaii, with colder, windier weather, ice caps and glaciers, and bigger rivers and waterfalls.  The island is pretty much entirely volcanic.  There are few trees.  It lies near the Atlantic storm track, at the intersection of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, near the Arctic Ice Cap (for now) and east of Greenland Ice Sheet.  Volcanic eruptions, sometimes violent due to the presence of ice and water, are frequent, as are volcanic dust storms.  What a place for meteorological mischief!
Moisture transport to Iceland is typically strongest and most frequent from the northeast through southwest and least frequent from the northwest.

Source: Crochet et al. (2007)
As a result, precipitation is greatest in higher elevation areas along the south and southeast coast, including the Myrdalsjokull and Vetnajokull ice caps, and in the mountains of the East Fjords.  Lowland areas on the norther side of the island, which lie downstream of high terrain during SW, S, SE, and E flow, are drier.
Source: Icelandic Meteorological Office (site locations annotated by the author)
The Iceland Met Office provides avalanche forecasts for the East Fjords, Trollaskagi (Troll Peninsula), and West Fjords.  Although precipitation is more limited, I found the mountains surrounding the Eyjafjörður Fjord near and north of Akureyri to be alluring.

Mountains along the Ring Road east of Akureyri 
East side of the Troll Peninsula
Snow fences above the town of Siglufjörður
Mountains on the west side of the Troll Peninsula
No skiing was done on this trip, but perhaps in the future.

A cultural highlight of the trip was meeting the President of Iceland Guðni Jóhannesson.

He gave a great speech for all the attendees of our meeting, who he hosted at a residence outside of Reykjavik.  Iceland sets quite an example for the rest of the world in areas such as standard of living, gender equality, and green power.  In the case of the latter, Iceland's electricity comes almost entirely from hydroelectric and geothermal sources. We were told by one of our hosts to "turn up the heat as much as we want because energy is cheap in Iceland."  

Iceland is a great place to visit for cultural reasons as the people here are remarkably friendly.  Given the massive surge in tourism over the past few years, one could understand if the locals were somewhat jaded toward tourists, but we've detected nothing of the sort.  The sole negative of a visit is that Icleand very expensive.  Peanut butter and jelly and stops at coffee shops with all you can eat fish soup and bread have proven to be essential for dietary sustenance.  Avoiding hotels and staying in less expensive guest houses has allowed us to make new friends and learn a lot about Icelandic culture.

A visual tour of a few highlights is provided below, courtesy of my cheap point-and-shoot camera.



Black sand beach

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon
No idea what the name of this one is.  These things are everywhere.
Icelandic glacier scene

Beautiful basalt columns are common in Iceland
Ski area near Neskaupstadur in the East Fjords.  Too foggy for a real photo!

Approaching Hengifoss 
Drier region on northern half of Iceland east of Lake Myvatn

Dettifoss from the east side.  You can practically put your toe in on this side (I didn't).
Dettifoss from the west
Kayakers below Godafoss
Below Godafoss (not me)

Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Iceland slot canyon

A rare "white" sand beach

Beer brewed with whale testicles at the Stedji Brewery.  When in Rome....


  1. I knew that you must be somewhere special. Iceland is our favorite! Our daughter did an artist in residence in the Upper Highlands so we visited and toured the country with her a few years ago pre tourist boom. . All of your pictures are of our most liked spots too. Enjoy and skal!

  2. I ate one of the greatest meals of my life in Hof. Please go eat langoustine there.