A Wealth of Water

natural resource iceland

Close your eyes and picture Iceland. What comes to mind? A powerful waterfall streaming down a cliffside? Bluish icebergs floating in a glacier lagoon? A hulking jeep fording a highland river? Or maybe a steaming hot spring or a neighbourhood swimming pool? Whichever image is most evocative of Iceland for you, there’s one thing they […]

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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.

Keflavík Flights Impacted by Winter Weather

Keflavík Airport

The winter weather that hit the Capital Region over the weekend is causing delays and cancellations to flights out of Keflavík International Airport.

Eight flights were canceled to the country last night, including all flights from the US. 

Additional delays to flight from and to Europe are expected today as well.

The Meteorological Office has issued a yellow weather warning for much of the country, and an orange weather warning for Southeast Iceland.

Stay up to date with the Meteorological Office’s weather warnings here.

Travelers are advised to contact their airline for further information, in addition to checking flight times at the airport’s website.

Ice in His Veins

the ash-streaked ice walls of the Sapphire Ice Cave.

Upon entering the cave, I become immediately wary of its integrity. It would be a rather foolish way to go. This apprehension endures for all of two minutes, however,
as the mind, seemingly bored by its own alarm, begins to wander. Few profound thoughts emerge, aside from the somewhat flaccid observation that being inside an ice cave is vaguely like standing inside an Iittala glass. After another two minutes, the unease has dissipated completely, and later, I find myself following our guide deeper and deeper into the darkness, utterly devoid of any reservations.

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Ice Injuries Put Additional Stress On Hospital

Around 50 people sought care at the National University Hospital because of ice-related accidents on Sunday. RÚV reports that several people had to be admitted and some required surgery for their injuries. With resources limited, however, there was a wait for the operating room.

There was a great deal of snow and sleet in the capital over the weekend, and the fire department’s ambulance was on constant call Sunday afternoon. The situation was no less difficult at the hospital.

“There’s unfortunately been a great deal of stress on the ER today,” remarked Hjalti Már Björnsson, chief physician in the hospital’s ER. “There have been a handful of serious injuries, broken bones and head injuries. Some people have needed to be admitted and some will need to undergo surgery.”

The hospital has already been under a great deal of stress as a result of COVID-19. As of Friday, there were 43 patients in hospital due to COVID-19, eight of whom were in intensive care. In addition, some 140 hospital staff were in isolation due to COVID-19 infection.

Ice Blockage in Hvítá River

river water

An ice blockage in Hvítá river, Southwest Iceland, is being closely monitored, RÚV reports. There has been significant rainfall in the area, which could lead to elevated water levels rising even higher, as well as the possibility of flooding once the blockage breaks. South Iceland Police were monitoring the area yesterday and are expected to return today.

A blockage in the same spot caused flooding and damage to summer homes in the area two years ago. Flooding is a particular danger if the weather warms quickly, as that could cause a sudden break in the blockage and increased conductivity and higher water levels in the river.

Experts will continue to monitor the area over the coming days.

Ice and Snow Falling from Rooftops

Snow in Reykjavík

After extreme cold and snowfall in Iceland over the last few weeks, temperatures have begun rising again, causing ice and snow to loosen and fall from rooftops, RÚV reports. 

People are asked to stay safe and under no circumstances should they try to go up on their roofs in attempts to remove the snow and ice.

An ice-filled gutter came loose in Hlíðar recently, causing the ice to fall to the ground, completely demolishing a wooden park bench sitting beneath.

“There’s an awful lot of ice on the city’s rooftops and most of it will eventually come down,” says Sigrún A. Þorsteinsdóttir, specialist in preventive measures for insurance agency VÍS. She says it’s important that people be mindful of what rests beneath rooftops and gutters. “People should definitely not go up on their roofs and get themselves in trouble, but they still need to react. They should seal off danger areas, if they find way to get the snow and ice down from the roofs.”