Cold Spell Likely to Persist Well Into the Weekend, Next Week

winter tires reykjavík

Following a weekend of relatively warm weather, temperatures in Iceland plummeted below 0°C on Monday. Meteorologist Einar Sveinbjörnsson informed Vísir that a prolonged cold spell, caused by “pure arctic air,” would likely continue into next week.

“Voices of spring silenced”

After temperatures dropped below freezing on Monday, a Vísir reporter reached out to meteorologist Einar Sveinbjörnsson, who predicted that freezing temperatures would persist until at least this weekend.

“This is a very typical March cold spell, which we’ve seen at this time of year in recent years. Neither worse nor milder than previous cold spells. The arctic has become quite cold, and this cold air often drifts southward,” Einar Sveinbjörnsson observed.

According to Einar, the freezing temperatures are expected to persist until next weekend, with the possibility of the cold spell continuing into next week.

“It started to get cold [on the day before] yesterday, with freezing temperatures being registered throughout the country. Unlike the prolonged cold spell from last December, this current cold snap was accompanied by wind,” Einar remarked. He pointed out that the fair weather last weekend had made many people think that spring was on its way:

But it’s like that book, which marked the beginning of the environmental movement [Silent Spring]: the voices of spring fall silent – because the voices of spring certainly fell silent quite suddenly. But it would have been unnatural if we had begun to see spring-like conditions at the beginning of March. If such a thing were to become a reality, one would begin to fear the effects of climate change,” Einar observed.

Einar concluded by saying that the cold air originated from ice sheets in the arctic: “The air is also dry, not much moisture, but, first and foremost, we’ll continue to see cold weather and wind chill.”

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.

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.

Swans Freeze to Ice During Cold Snap

Residents in Hafnarfjörður, a small town just outside the capital area, have rescued multiple swans that have frozen to the icy surface of Hamarkotslækur creek during a recent spate of desperately cold weather in the country, RÚV reports. Local bird lovers in the group Fuglavinur (‘Bird friends’) encourage people to help any birds they see in such a predicament.

Swans freezing to ice is unfortunately not a rare occurrence, and it’s not even the first year the birds have frozen to the creek, which runs through the centre of Hafnarfjörður, says Guðmundur Fylkisson. Guðmundur is a member of the Facebook group Project Henrý, which has had permission to look after the birds of Hamarkotslækur for over a decade.

“Last night, a few neighbors rescued a chick—it was a swan,” Guðmundur told reporters. “Around Christmas, there were two swans [frozen stuck] here. About a year ago, maybe two, there was one that had been stuck for probably close to 24 hours.”

Young swan rescued by Guðmundur Fylkisson recuperates in local prison cell. Photo provided by Guðmundur.

Guðmundur personally freed the latter three birds, one of which, he told Iceland Review, “was put up in a prison cell over New Year’s. He was cold and worse for wear—ravens had started nibbling at him. After a two-night stay in the cell, he was tagged and then released. He’s one of the birds that’s now on the creek.”

Only in Hafnarfjörður

For whatever reason, this doesn’t happen to other birds, says Guðmundur. “It’s just the swans. I’ve never seen this happen to geese or ducks.” Moreover, this pitiable phenomenon seems to be restricted to the creek in Hafnarfjörður; Guðmundur says he’s never heard of it happening anywhere else.

Guðmundur urged residents to help any birds they can, as the swans only injure themselves when they struggle to get free. “When they get loose, they tear their feathers and bleed and when the blood and snow mix, it looks pretty bad,” he remarked. “They’ve injure their breasts doing this.”

‘They don’t bite hard’

Swans have a reputation for being aggressive, so Guðmundur understands that people might be hesitant to try and free them from the ice. But they needn’t be, he says, if certain precautions are taken.

“You have to be careful about their wings and beaks, that they don’t poke you in the eye, but they don’t bite hard. I usually just use a blanket or a towel and spread it over their wings to keep them from thrashing too much. They haven’t hurt me so far.”

Extended Hours at Women’s Shelter During Cold Snap

red cross iceland

The Konukot women’s shelter will stay open all day in order to provide much-needed shelter for homeless women during the current cold weather snap in Reykjavík, RÚV reports. Typically, the shelter is only open in the evenings and early morning, from 5:00 pm to 10:00 am, but with temperatures hovering between -11°C [12°F] and 1°C [34°F] this weekend, the decision was made to keep it open during the day as well.

Konukot, which means ‘Women’s Cottage,’ is a collaborative project maintained by the Red Cross and the City of Reykjavík. According to shelter director Brynhildur Jensdóttir, there’s a regular group of women who utilize Konukot on a consistent basis and thus far, usage has been normal. However, she and the shelter staff want the women to have the option of staying longer if needed when the weather is particularly cold.

The nearby Gistiskýlið men’s shelter, also run by the City of Reykjavík, will be open during its usual weekend hours, that is the standard 5:00 pm – 10:00 am schedule. Use of this facility has increased considerably with the cold, and all of the beds have been filled. Five additional beds were provided on Friday, bringing the total up to 30.

South Coast Swimming Pools Closed Due to Hot Water Shortage

Snow in Reykjavík

Swimming pools in Rangárvallasýsla district on the south coast have been closed due to frost and district heating in Þorlákshöfn is close to breaking point as hot water shortages due to severe colds continue, RÚV reports. Considering the weather forecast today, it’s not likely that access to hot water in the capital area needs to be restricted on Friday but the situation on Saturday is unclear.

Swimming pools in Hella, Laugaland and Hvolsvöllur have been closed. In Þorlákshöfn, part of the pool and hot tubs will be closed while the cold passes. “The heating is close to a breaking point and we’re also limiting hot water to the biggest users in the area,” Ólöf Snæhólm Baldursdóttir, public relations officer for Veitur Utilities, told RÚV.

Earlier this week, it looked like swimming pools in Reykjavík would need to be closed on Friday. “Looking at the weather forecast, it’s less likely that we have to do that tomorrow, but it looks like it will get even colder Saturday and Sunday so we might have to take some action.”

Veitur have asked people to keep their hot water use in the home to a minimum. “We think it’s working since we’ve been getting calls from people wondering what they can do to limit their hot water usage. We’re seeing the increase in usage slow down, “Ólöf said. In order to limit hot water usage, people are asked to keep windows and doors closed, and lower the temperatures of radiators when they open windows. People should also make sure radiators aren’t covered by heavy curtains or furniture.

According to the weather forecast, the weather will warm up after the weekend.

Record Hot Water Usage in Reykjavík

Snow in Reykjavík

Cold weather in the Reykjavík capital area led to record hot water usage yesterday, according to Veitur Utilities. Residents consumed an average 16,000 tonnes of hot water per hour throughout the day, more than ever before recorded. If freezing temperatures continue, as the weather forecast calls for, Veitur says it may be necessary to cut hot water supply to its biggest consumers, such as swimming pools.

Veitur is now operating according to a contingency plan, the first step of which is to inform residents of the need to minimise hot water usage. The utilities provider reminds locals that around 90% of hot water supply is used to heat homes. Reykjavík area residents are asked to avoid leaving windows and doors open longer than necessary and ensure that radiators are not blocked by long curtains or furniture.

Veitur hopes residents will do their part in order to prevent more drastic measures, such as cutting hot water supply. More advice for minimising hot water usage is available in Icelandic on Veitur’s website.