Frost

Individually, snowflakes are fragile, easily broken, dissolving into droplets of water at the mere touch of a finger or a breath of air, while en masse, they’re capable of wreaking havoc on the city streets and causing catastrophe when avalanching down a mountainside.

Contrary to expectation, the correlation between outside temperature and the feeling of cold is less straightforward than people would think. It’s the wind that gets you.

At -19°C [-2.2°F], everything feels crisp. The air, certainly, but also the few rays of light that make it all the way up north at this time of year. The horizon turns an impossibly pastel shade of blue or pink and the grey streaks on the sides of the mountains solidify into a texture that, from a distance, looks soft to the touch.

They say there’s no such thing as bad weather: only a bad attitude to whatever conditions nature offers. Besides, bad weather is good weather under the right conditions. Snuggling beneath a warm blanket wouldn’t be half as nice if the sun were out and temperatures were warm.The weather is an opportunity: a not-so-blank canvas on which one can impose one’s limited imagination.

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These past two months have suggested, however, that the gods have come to show a more determined frigidity towards their human subjects: a lasting and glowering disapproval for our nonchalance towards nature.

Temperatures in Iceland usually vacillate. The weather here is infamously fickle. As if the product of temperamental gods, bestowing, depending on their mood – commendation or condemnation on the mortals dwelling below them.

It’s hard to describe the feeling when you breathe deep in -19°C weather and – for a split second – your nose freezes shut.

We care about the cold weather only as it affects our human lives. We lament that the accompanying snow has blocked the road to the airport. That the municipalities have been lacklustre in their clearing of sidewalks.

And we, worst of all, remain continually apprehensive that the utility companies will announce the indefinite closure of the public pools. Otherwise, the constant cold has made for beautiful weather. Less wind, clearer skies; there’s beauty in steadfastness.

The ground is frozen solid. Icicles form along the gutters of roofs. And birds struggle to eke out their existence. Cars are warmed before passengers clamber inside. Old people slip on the sidewalks. And the unhoused entreat the municipalities to keep the shelters open around the clock. But even so, nature’s long exhalation of cold air provides pleasant relief for a mind dreading the coming warmth. 

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.

Wintry Weather Expected After the Weekend

winter tires reykjavík

Wintry weather is to be expected around Iceland after the weekend, Mbl reports. Expect snowfall in the north and frost but no snow in the south. The frost will likely continue throughout the week.

Although the weather in South Iceland has been relatively mild recently, rainfall is expected in the greater Reykjavík area tomorrow, along with snowfall in the mountains.

Northerly winds will bring snowfall to North Iceland Monday morning. Traveling conditions may deteriorate. Expect gusty weather in upland Iceland and attendant weather warnings, meteorologist Þorsteinn V. Jónsson says.

A high-pressure system currently sits over Iceland but a low-pressure area is developing around Hvarf, which is expected to shift across the country. This low will bring Arctic air over Iceland with accompanying cold air, Jónsson predicts. Another low is expected to move in from Scotland this week, shoring up cold northerly winds with attendant Arctic air through the week.

This week, Jónsson expects mostly clear skies in South Iceland and snowstorms in North Iceland. The long-term forecast predicts slow winds and clear skies in most parts of the country on Friday and Saturday.

National Ice Bathing Record Broken

ice bath

Lea Marie Galgana broke the national record for longest time spent in an ice bath at the third annual ice bathing championships last week, mbl.is reports. Lea Marie sat in a bath at a temperature of 0°C [32°F] for an astounding 42 minutes and 20 seconds. The previous record was held by Vilhjálmur Andri Einarsson who remained in an ice bath for 20 minutes during last year’s competition.

Second place went to Algirdas Kazulis, who stayed in an ice bath for 41 minutes and 18 seconds. Sigurður J. Ævarsson placed third at 35 minutes, 5 seconds. Seven people competed overall.

The competition is organized by Benedikt S. Lafleur and aims to draw attention to the health benefits of cold bathing.