Nine Days of Cold Spell, With No End in Sight

Reykjavík

The capital area has seen below-zero temperatures uninterrupted since March 6. Today, March 14, marks the ninth straight day of subzero temperatures.

Although temperatures may briefly rise above zero tomorrow afternoon, no clear end is in sight for the cold spell.

In a report on Facebook, meteorologist Einar Sveinbjörnsson stated: “It’s an unusually long spell for March, when the sun has begun to warm during the day. The previous record this winter was for some 14 days before Christmas, though this was when the sun was at its lowest.”

According to Einar, the coldest March in living memory was in 1979, when the temperatures remained below zero for 11 continuous days, from February 28 to March 10.

Though the month began with relatively warm temperatures, the average temperature during the latest cold spell has sat between -6.5°C and -7°C [19°F to 21°F].

The low temperatures are expected to last at least until the weekend, with a slight rise on Friday.

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.”

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.

Cold Spell Continues: Emergency Shelters Open All Day Today

An icy Reykjavík City Pond.

The City of Reykjavík has activated an emergency plan and will keep emergency shelters open around the clock today, Vísir reports. An unhoused man hopes that the city will continue keep emergency shelters open 24 hours a day for the duration of the cold spell, predicted to last ten more days at least. The cold weather is expected to have wide-ranging effects.

The unhoused hope for extended shelter

As reported by Iceland review earlier this week, temperatures in Iceland have hovered well below 0°C over the past week – and if weather forecasts prove accurate, temperatures are expected to drop even further this weekend and the next.

In response to the cold weather, the City of Reykjavík has decided to keep its emergency shelters open over the next 24 hours (the shelters are normally open from 5 PM to 10 AM). The city will then assess the situation, going forward, tomorrow. Speaking to Vísir, Heiða Björg Hilmisdóttir, Chair of Reykjavík City’s Welfare Council, stated that City of Reykjavík would be reviewing the possibility of expanding shelters:

“It’s our priority that no one is made to sleep outside or is turned away at night. If only there were more organisations like Samhjálp, Icelandic Church Aid, and the Icelandic Red Cross that were willing to help, that would be very helpful.”

Heiða pointed out that approximately 300 people had availed themselves of emergency shelters in the city this year, of which a hundred came from other municipalities. Other municipalities must get involved: “We’re learning, and we need to listen and evaluate and do as well as we can, but other municipalities besides Reykjavík need to involve themselves.”

Ragnar Erling Hermannsson, who has been unhoused for some time, hopes that emergency shelters will be kept open around the clock while the cold spell lasts:

“I’m going to see if they keep the shelters open around the clock beyond today,” Ragnar observed. “It makes you wonder if this is just some kind of showmanship by the city. In reality, they have a choice between two or three people dying today or keeping the shelters open while the cold lasts.”

A difficult time for small birds

Aside from the dangers that freezing temperatures pose to people, the cold spell also makes it difficult for small birds to find food and running water.

“It’s hard to find food in this frost,” Hólmfríður Arnarsdóttir, Director of BirdLife Iceland, told Vísir. “There are only a few hours a day of sunlight, so there is less time to look for food and more time that must be dedicated to keeping warm, i.e. the entirety of the night.”

Hólmfríður stated that it is extremely important for people to feed the birds and make sure that they get water while the cold weather persists: “It’s best to feed them twice a day: at dawn and at dusk.”

More pools to be closed?

On Tuesday, Rangárveitur, which manages the hot-water supply in three municipalities in South Iceland, published a press release to notify residents that the hot-water supply was nearing its limit. In light of the cold, the local authorities, on the advice of Veitur, decided to close three public pools in the area – in Hvolsvöllur, Hella, and Laugaland.

The cold could also affect swimming pools in the capital area. Steinthór Einarsson, Director of Operations and Services at ÍTR (Sports and Outdoor Activities), told Vísir yesterday that three public pools may need to be closed:

“There are three pools, Vesturbæjarlaug (West Reykjavík), Sundhöllin (Downtown Reykjavík), and Dalslaug (Grafarholt), which we may need to close due to the cold. I just received a message stating that they don’t need to be closed tomorrow (Friday, December 16), but we reassess every day. As there is a very cold forecast ahead, it’s impossible to say for certain.”