Yellow Weather Alert Takes Effect for All of Iceland

Waves crashing over Reykjavík lighthouse

A yellow weather alert took effect for most parts of the country early this morning. A quick thaw later in the day is expected to produce heavy snowmelt. Residents are encouraged to clear snow away from gutters and icicles from roofs.

Extreme cold finally coming to a close

After six weeks of extreme cold, the weather in Iceland began to warm last night. In an interview with Fréttablaðið yesterday, Teitur Arason, a meteorologist with the Icelandic Met Office, stated that the cold spell was finally coming to an end.

“Today is the last day with this extreme cold,” Teitur said yesterday. After warmer weather this weekend, however, it will get cold again – but not as cold as over the past six weeks.

“On the one hand, the forecast expects a storm during the early part of tomorrow and then followed by a quick thaw.”

Teitur expects that the weather will grow calmer on Sunday but after the weekend, winter weather is expected to set in again. December and January have been unusually cold:

“What’s unusual, and what will go down in history, is this cold snap that has been going on for the last six weeks; we’ve seen an unusually long period of extreme frost. The swing in temperature over the course of one day will be quite extreme – and we will probably see the greatest swings in temperature in Víðidalur valley in Northeast Iceland. It was freezing there this morning (-23.4°C), but tomorrow [i.e. today, January 20) ] temperatures will rise to 7°C. That’s a swing of thirty degrees. This owes to the fact that we’ve been sitting in cold air and then a low-pressure system will move into the country and bring a lot of hot air. This is more normal weather at this time of year as opposed to this long cold snap.”

In an interview with Mbl.is yesterday, Jón Þór Víglundsson, Public Relations Officer for ICE-SAR (the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue), stated that rescue teams were at the ready: “The forces are ready, and if they have to, they will be called out.”

Difficult road conditions are expected to form over the course of the day.

New Recommendations for Fishing Industry Reform

Börkur ship fishing

Working groups for “Our Resource,” a policy proposal to reform the Icelandic fishing industry through increased transparency and oversight, have submitted preliminary proposals to the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries.

The submitted proposals are in line with Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir’s decision last May to begin reforming the Icelandic fishing industry from both an environmental and economic perspective. Now, the preliminary results are in.

New Regulatory Framework for Fishing Industry

The preliminary proposals, reached in consultation with experts, business partners, and the general population, are numerous, with some 60 proposals requiring further deliberation.

Limiting Discarded Bycatch

A major concern recognised by the new policy proposals is the extent of discarded bycatch produced by the Icelandic fishing industry.

Since the beginning of drone monitoring of the Icelandic fishing fleet in 2021, discarded bycatch has been recorded in ca. 40% of fishing boats, according to Heimildin.

In order to prevent excessive waste, incentives are needed to ensure that more of the catch comes ashore, while also not encouraging fishermen to catch beyond their quota limits. Current regulations allow for small amounts of bycatch to be brought ashore and sold on the market, with profits split between the fishers and the state. However, the recommendations for “Our Resource” note that often the incentives are not high enough and that large amounts of bycatch are wasted because the cost of bringing it to shore is simply too high.

Preliminary recommendations include increasing the proportion of the bycatch profit for the fishermen, which currently sits at 20%, in addition to introducing a standardized and coordinated weighing system. To this day, the Icelandic fishing industry lacks a uniform method of weighing catch.

The 5.3% System

The new proposals also recommend changes for small boat fishermen, who have struggled financially in the last decades to compete with the larger fishing concerns in Iceland: the so-called “Sea Barons,” whose fleets own large portions of the fishing quota.

A controversial recommendation includes abolishing the “5.3% system,” in which 5.3% of the total catch quota for different species of fish is reserved for coastal and small boat fishers. This system has been a lifeline for small rural communities, as it guarantees small-time fishermen a minimum amount of catch. However, new policy recommendations would instead place emphasis on other ways of developing rural communities. The 5.3% system has also been identified as a roadblock to technological progress within the industry.

Some have critiqued this possible change. Örn Pálsson director of the National Association of Small Boat Owners, stated to RÚV: “I don’t seriously believe that they will carry it through. The 5.3% system was developed in response to some of the mergers that have occurred, and continue to occur, between the largest fishing enterprises in the nation, which have driven many rural fish processors out of business […] There’s no question that things would be harder without the 5.3% system.”

Gender Equality in the Fishing Industry

The preliminary recommendations for “Our Resource” also include reforms to the gender imbalance within the Icelandic fishing industry.

Fishing has historically been a male-dominated industry. To this day, some 10% of Icelandic fishing enterprises employ no women at all, reports Heimildin.

However, women have come to increased prominence in middle management, accounting, and executive positions.

Proposals would seek to keep the gender balance, legally binding in other sectors of the Icelandic economy, at no more than 60% of male, female or non-binary.

Final proposals for “Our Resource” are expected to be presented to parliament by the spring of 2024. The preliminary proposals for the new regulation can be read here.

Icelandic Handball Fans Banned from Using Drums

handball iceland 2023

Supports of the Icelandic team at the 2023 World Men’s Handball Championship in Sweden have been banned from using drums in the Gautaborg stadium, Morgunblaðið reports.

See also: Iceland Beats Portugal in Opening Game of World Championship

In a statement to Morgunblaðið, Gauti Sigurgeirsson, a member of the Icelandic national team fan club, said: “The Swedish handball association won’t let us have drums in the stands at the stadium […] But we’re sticking to our plan. We’re going to the stadium and doing everything we can to support the Icelandic national team, with or without our drums. It just doesn’t make sense that all of a sudden we’re not allowed to have any instruments.”

Icelandic fans have so far been happy with the accommodations at the 2023 World Men’s Handball Championship. The championship is being hosted in nine cities throughout both Poland and Sweden. Matches hosted in the Swedish city of Kristianstad, such as the opening match between Iceland and Portugal, allowed fans to support their team with instruments.

Now, fans of the national team are disappointed but determined to continue rooting for “our boys,” as they are affectionately known. While instruments are not allowed in the general stands, however, a special balcony is reserved in the Gautaborg stadium, where the Icelandic fans can drum to their hearts’ content.

Gauti continued to say to Morgunblaðið: “It was just great in Kristianstad. It’s a great town. We got to do everything we wanted and it went really went, but everything changed in Gautaborg. We weren’t allowed to bring any of our instruments when we played Sweden, which definitely has an effect on the support. But we just used our hands and voices instead.”

 

 

Capital Area Pools Closed to Conserve Hot Water

sundhöll

Pools throughout the capital region will be closed today due to the cold spell affecting Iceland.

Utility company Veitur will be cutting its supply of hot water to some of its largest users, in an attempt to reduce hot water use.

In response to Veitur’s reduction, Reykjavík City has made the decision to close the city’s pools today, January 19. The closures will also affect the bathing facilities at Nauthólsvík. The closures will also be in effect in the nearby towns of Mosfellbær and Kópavogur.

Bathers will however still be able to visit the pools in Garðabær, though water temperatures may be potentially lower than usual. The Seltjarnes pool will likewise continue to be open, as it is supplied directly from a geothermal borehole.

In a public statement, Veitur hopes to not have to limit the hot water supply for any longer than today, as warmer weather is expected. Pools are expected to open tomorrow, but this may be subject to change.

The pool closures come during one of the coldest winters in recent memory. This past December was the coldest since 1973, although average temperatures have risen slightly in January. Temperatures have been especially cold in the Reykjavík area, where it has not been colder (on average) since 1916.

In light of these unusual conditions, Veitur has also asked residents to help out in conserving hot water where possible. According to Veitur, some 90% of hot water use by Icelandic households goes towards heating alone. Residents are reminded to close doors and windows to conserve energy and to ensure that radiators aren’t blocked from heating the room.

Unusual Snow on Esja Slopes

esja mountain reykjavik

Reykjavík residents and visitors may have noticed a distinctive stripe on Esja’s slopes in the last few days.

As can be seen, a white band of snow stretches up Esja’s slope for about 300m. Above the 300m mark there is much less snow, and in many places no snow at all, leading to the interesting band of colour.

The Meteorological Office of Iceland claims on social media that they’ve received many questions about the phenomenon and have provided a brief public explanation.

Typically, we see the opposite on mountain slopes: white peaks, with bare sides. This is because the higher the elevation, the lower the average temperature. So precipitation falling at the peak is much more likely to be snow, while precipitation falling on the slopes may simply turn to rain.

The pattern visible on Esja for the last few days, according to the Meteorological Office, can be explained by a cycle of freezing and thawing.

Average temperatures have been very low in Iceland his winter, but data shows brief temperature spikes in low-lying areas. These warming periods, followed by continued cold averages, create a cycle of thawing and re-freezing that compacts the snow, making it denser and icier.

However, because the peaks have remained at freezing temperatures, the snow at higher elevations has remained powdery. Powdery snow is of course more susceptible to wind and is more likely to be blown away in storms. The Meteorological Office pointed out the night of January 8-9 as especially windy, with recorded wind speeds of 20 m/s (45 mph). Sure enough, the next day was when the distinctive snow pattern became visible.

Former National Team Captain Sara Björk Wins Maternity Rights Case

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir fyrirliði landsliðs Íslands í fótbolta

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, recently retired captain of the Women’s National Football Team, has won her maternity case against former club and employer Olympique Lyonnais.

Read more: Captain Sara Björk Retires from National Team

During her time at the prestigious French football club, she became the first Icelander to score in the finals of a Champions League match, among other achievements.

After becoming pregnant in 2021, however, she ran up against cultural expectations within professional sports that discourage athletes from having children during the height of their careers. 

Sara Björk arranged with her club to return to Iceland for the duration of her pregnancy, with the understanding that she would return to the team after giving birth. However, Lyon soon began withholding her pay. When it became clear the withheld pay was part of a pattern, Sara Björk pressed claims against Lyon. Now, she has been awarded the back pay, plus interest, in a landmark case of maternity rights in professional sports.

Sara Björk now plays for the Italian club Juventus.  A full account of her pregnancy and subsequent battle with Lyon can be read here.

In a statement on social media, Sara Björk said: “This is not ‘just business.’ This is about my rights as a worker, as a woman and as a human being.” 

Síminn Retires Clock Service after 86 Years

síminn iceland

Telecommunications company Síminn has decided to retire their clock service, where residents could call a number to know what time it is, after 86 years of service.

The company announced on their website that the service stopped answering calls on January 16. The change comes in response to a world in which information technology has made such services redundant, and Síminn points out in their announcement how we are now surrounded with many devices in our homes and offices that easily provide this service.

Utilisation of the service has declined significantly over the decades, and according to Síminn, was barely used at all in its final years.

The service was introduced in 1937, when Halldóra Briem was the first voice for the clock. According to Síminn, she travelled to the headquarters of the Swedish phone company Ericsson, where she recorded 90 separate different recordings that could be played back in different versions.

During its first years, the service was only available in Reykjavík. It was only introduced to Akureyri in 1950.

Over the years, voices of the clock have included actress Sigríður Hagalín (1963), actress Ingibjörg Björnsdóttir (1993), and the first man in 2013 with Ólafur Darri Ólafsson.

 

 

Report Suggests Decreased Fine Collection Leads to Increase in Offenses

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

The Icelandic National Audit Office (INAO) recently published a report on the collection of court fines, stating that since 2014, some ISK 1.3 billion (9.1 million USD, 8.4 million EUR) in court fines have either lapsed or been written off. Now, district attorney Ólafur Þór Hauksson has expressed his concern that this perceived lack of consequences may lead to an increase in offences.

See also: Prison Sentences Expire Due to Lack of Cell Space

In a statement on RÁS 2, Ólafur said: “Of course, we have to think about the deterrent effect of the work we are doing. So we agree with the state auditor that in order for the deterrent to be effective, the punishments must have some consequences.”

It came forth in the report that higher fines, in excess of ISK 10 million (70,200 USD, 64,700 EUR) were only collected in around 2% of cases. Notably, the Icelandic National Audit Office published a report with similar findings some 13 years ago and suggested changes to be implemented. Little, however, has been done in the intervening years to reform the problem.

The district attorney expressed his fear that the lack of meaningful deterrence could severely undermine law enforcement in Iceland.

“We are trying to confront this today, both by securing funding for fine collection, as well as confiscating illegal gains to try to stop this trend,” Ólafur stated to RÁS 2.

 

FÚSK Art Collective Looks for New Home

fúsk art collective reykjavík

DIY art collective, FÚSK, is on the look for a new home.

Gufunes, a former industrial area near the capital, has for some years been the location of film production company Reykjavík Studios, in addition to several other art projects and collectives. The City of Reykjavík has offered abandoned industrial facilities at the site to artists and creative workers who would like to develop them into studios and workspaces. However, despite the initial welcome art projects have received in this area, many are now being forced to relocate.

FÚSK leases a de-commissioned fertilizer factory from the City of Reykavík. In a public statement on social media, FÚSK members pointed out unfavourable leasing conditions from the City of Reykjavík, in addition to increasing restrictions. FÚSK has, for instance, been restricted from working with the film industry and from holding further events.

Elsa Jónsdóttir, a co-founder of FÚSK, stated: “We went into FÚSK not having anything, water, electricity, or plumbing. It made every 100 per cent harder, but we also learned a lot. I became so invested in some of the projects we had in Gufunes, I just hope the city fights to keep some of them alive.”

Elsa also praised the city for some of its support for artists during the COVID-19 pandemic but suggested a lack of planning. “We saw all this support for artists during COVID,” she said. “But once it was over, they just pulled out the rug from under us. I don’t think there was a very long-term plan. Even though the city has tried to support youth culture and the arts through initiatives, we don’t always see it in practice.”

The future of FÚSK is still very much up in the air, but organizers have stated their openness to many different possibilities, including a possible relocation to the countryside.

The Gufunes area is slated for an urban renewal project, with plans to construct a swimming pool, a preschool, steam baths, and an underwater restaurant.

Nurse Charged with Manslaughter Pleads Not Guilty

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

A National Hospital nurse charged with manslaughter has pleaded not guilty in a recent hearing by the Reykjavík District Court.

The nurse in question was charged with manslaughter in December of 2022 for “crimes committed in public service.”

See also: National Hospital Nurse Charged with Manslaughter

The nurse stands accused of force-feeding a patient in the National Hospital to death in August of 2021. She is said to have culpably caused the death of the victim, a woman in her fifties.

The accused was originally sentenced to be kept in custody for some time during the course of the investigation, but Vísir reports that this decision was overruled by the National Court.

The case is expected to be judged by judicial panel, in addition to including the testimony of medical professionals.

The hearing is scheduled for January 30.