Sun While It Lasted: May Among “Gloomiest” Months on Record Skip to content

Sun While It Lasted: May Among “Gloomiest” Months on Record

By Ragnar Tómas

Rain in Reykjavík
Photo: Golli.

This year’s month of May is in contention to break a more than 70-year-old record for the fewest hours of recorded sunlight in Reykjavík. The rainfall record for the month could also fall, Mbl.is reports.

A month of gloom and rain

The Icelandic weather Gods have been in a rather punishing mood this May. With nearly two weeks of continuous cloud cover in the capital area, water-cooler conversations in the various offices around Reykjavík have frequently been punctuated by weather-related grumblings. This morning, an article published on Mbl.is appeared to substantiate such pessimism scientifically, noting that our current month of May was in contention to break a more than 70-year-old “sunless” record in Reykjavík.

“Sure, we still have a chance of hitting solar rock bottom,” meteorologist Trausti Jónsson told the outlet. Trausti pointed out that, to date, the fewest number of “sunshine hours” in Reykjavík were recorded in May 1951, or 102.2 hours. When Trausti reviewed the data on Monday evening, the number of sunshine hours in May had reached a meagre 93.5 hours – with only three days remaining of the month. As noted by Mbl.is, this means that if fewer than 8.8 hours of sunshine hours are recorded over those three days, May 2023 would become the “least sunniest” fifth month of the year since measurements began.

Mbl.is further noted that this year’s May compared unfavourably with May of last year, when the number of sunshine hours in Reykjavík totalled 259.3 – exceeding the May average between 1991 and 2020 by 50 hours. Hours of sunshine have been measured in Reykjavík and the surrounding area since 1911, although measurements prior to May 1921 have gone missing.

Rain, rain, and more rain

On Monday evening, a total of 118.3 millimetres of rain had been recorded in Reykjavík in May. The rainiest May on record came in 2018 when the total rainfall was recorded at 128.8 millimetres. As noted by Mbl.is, it would, therefore, only take an additional 10.6 millimetres of rain during the final days of May to be recorded by the Met Office’s precipitation gauge to break the previous record. Such a thing is not beyond the realm of possibility, Trausti told Mbl.is.

Again, this year’s May compares unfavourably to last year’s, when the total recorded rainfall in Reykjavík was 44 millimetres or approximately 84% of the average rainfall for the years 1991 to 2020. Continuous rainfall measurements began in Reykjavík in 1920. On a slightly more upbeat note, the average temperature in the capital area in May has been close to the average.

Update (June 2): On June 1, Vísir reported that this year’s month of May had broken the record for fewest hours of recorded sunlight in May since measurements began. “The sun shone for 96 hours and the month was the third rainiest since the measurements began.”

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