April Warmer and Sunnier than Average in Iceland

Árbæjarsafn Reykjavík on April 20, 2023, the First Day of Summer

Last month was the seventh-warmest April on record in Reykjavík, according to the latest figures from the Icelandic Met Office. April weather was calm and warm across Iceland, though it cooled down in the last week of the month.

The average temperature in Reykjavík in April was 5.3°C [41.5°F], which is 1.6°C above the 1991-2020 average and 1.2°C above the average for the last ten years. The average temperature in Akureyri, North Iceland, was also 1.6°C above the 1991-2020 average, at 4.2°C [39.6°F]. That is one degree higher than the average for the last decade. In Stykkishólmur, West Iceland, the average temperature was 4.0°C [39.2°F] and in Höfn, Southeast Iceland, the average temperature was 4.4°C [39.9°F]. The April temperatures recorded at 12 weather stations across the country all averaged higher than the April average of the past decade.

Surprise spring snow in Reykjavík

Despite pleasantly warm temperatures, Reykjavík received 87 millimetres of precipitation in April: 50% more than the 1991-2020 average. Akureyri received only about 85% of its average precipitation compared to the same period, or 21.7 mm. Reykjavík residents were surprised by heavy snowfall on April 27, which measured 11 cm [4.3 in] – such heavy snowfall is indeed rarely seen in the region in the second half of April. In Akureyri, however, no such “white” days were recorded last month, a drop from the monthly average of five. Both Reykjavík and Akureyri had more sunshine last month than the monthly average.

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The highest average temperature for last month was 6.3°C [43.3°F], recorded on Surtsey island in the Westman Islands archipelago off South Iceland. Visits to the island are forbidden for all but the members of an annual research expedition, so it can’t be said that these balmy temperatures were enjoyed by any of Iceland’s human residents – though the island’s avian inhabitants hopefully profited.

Three Earthquakes Over M4 at Katla Volcano

Katla volcano

The aviation colour code above Katla volcano in South Iceland has been raised to yellow following an earthquake swarm at the site this morning. Preliminary figures measured the strongest earthquake at M4.5. No volcanic unrest was detected and there are no indications a glacial flood has begun from beneath Mýrdalsjökull glacier.

The earthquake swarm began at 9:41 AM this morning under Mýrdalsjökull. The origin of the earthquakes is the northeast section of the Katla caldera and the earthquakes were felt in Þórsmörk. Although there are no indications that an eruption or glacial flood is imminent, it is not advisable to be at the base of the Katla glacier due to possible gas emissions and floodwater from Múlakvísl river.

Read More: A Volcano in the Backyard

A similar earthquake swarm occurred in Katla caldera in August 2016. No flood occurred in connection with that swarm. The last big glacial flood in Múlakvísl occurred in July 2011. Katla’s last eruption (that broke through the ice that covers it) was over 100 years ago, in 1918. Its eruption frequency during the last 1,100 years is, however, one eruption per 50 years.

What is Iceland doing about blood farms?

icelandic horse blood farm

Since the 1980s, Icelandic horse farmers have been extracting the hormone Equine Chorionic Gonadotropin (eCG) from their pregnant mares to gain extra income. The hormone can be removed from the mare’s blood and sold for large sums. Although the practice has mostly been ignored in Iceland, the release of a documentary by the German animal rights organization, The Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF), in 2021 raised questions on animal welfare and blood harvesting surveillance. The documentary showcased animal cruelty at Icelandic horse farms where the hormone was being extracted. It also revealed that the hormone is mainly used to boost fertility in other farm animals, and Iceland is one of only a handful of countries that operate blood farms. The documentary stated that about 5,000 Icelandic horses overall are subjected to the procedure.

Read more: Iceland Tightens Regulations on Blood Mare Farms

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) reported that they were aware of all of the farms and conducted on-site inspections but admitted that they visit less than half of the farms each year. After the documentary was released, Iceland’s government took an interest in the footage. Members of parliament sought answers, and Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir organized a working group to investigate blood farming. The company that produces pharmaceuticals from Icelandic mares’ blood serum, Ísteka, announced that it had terminated cooperation with the farms that have been accused of animal mistreatment.

In early January of 2022, MAST completed its investigation and found that the abuse captured in the documentary constituted a breach of animal welfare laws in Iceland. Those convicted of animal cruelty in Iceland can face hefty fines and up to two years of jail time, according to Icelandic law. However, in many cases, those convicted only face a minor fine and no jail time. Animal welfare specialists in Iceland have stated that an outright ban on extracting eCG from mares is unrealistic, and they suggest that it needs to be monitored to ensure that animal welfare is not violated, and such parties are punished.

Regulations were further strengthened in June of last year, including the introduction of licensing requirements.

Sale of Green Energy Credits from Iceland Suspended

AIB, the European company responsible for an energy certification system for power companies in the region, has suspended the sale of green energy credits from Iceland. According to a press release from the company, there are indications that a “double claiming of energy attributes was taking place.” The certificates are bought by foreign companies and are a huge source of income for Icelandic energy producers. RÚV reported first.

Last January, Iceland Review reported on the local impact of the energy credit market, which is intended to encourage investment in the production of green energy. While over 99% of energy produced in Iceland comes from renewable sources like hydroelectric and geothermal power, a majority of energy produced in Europe is still nuclear or fossil fuel. Some 90% of energy produced in Iceland is now sold on renewable energy credit markets, meaning consumers of non-renewable energy can purchase green energy credits even if their operations are powered by, for example, coal.

Sale of energy certificates could reach ISK 20 billion per year

AIB suspended the sales due to a suspicion of double counting: that some companies were claiming they had purchased green energy credits from Iceland that had already been sold to another party. AIB pointed to a lack of oversight on the sale of the certificates from Iceland, and that it needs to be better clarified who is responsible for the oversight.

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AIB stated that they intend to help Landsnet (the public company responsible for Iceland’s power transmission system) resolve the issue, “thereby securing Icelandic national interests.” The sale of such certificates nearly reached ISK 1 billion [$7.4 million, €6.7 million] in 2019. The National Power Company of Iceland (Landsvirkjun) estimates that sales could reach ISK 20 billion [$147 million, €133 million] annually.