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Climate and Weather

Norway - Climate and Weather


Norway has distinct climate zones thanks to its long, thin land mass wrapped above Sweden, Finland and touching Russia. The eastern border runs along Sweden for over a thousand miles. The north, south, middle, eastern and western parts of the country experience seasons differently.

Norway’s total size of 385,252 square kilometres (or 148,747 square miles) makes it the 68th largest country in the world. But with a total population of just over 5 million people, more than 80% of whom live in urban areas, much of the country is untouched by development. Two thirds of the country is covered in mountainous, with glaciers and deep coastal fjords making it a scenic destination for tourists.

The arrival of the seasons will vary each year and significantly in each part of the country. Spring usually arrives during May, along with flowers and public bank holidays. The melting snow enhances the flow of waterfalls, although occasional windy days will cool the air. Summer is usually ending by the middle of August. The foliage colours are beautiful throughout autumn. By the end of November, winter has arrived.

The northern Gulf Stream and air currents caused by the coriolis effect help warm the climate of this Scandinavian country, which sits on the same latitude of Siberia, Greenland and Alaska. The coastal areas and the fjords will rarely experience icy conditions in winter. The ice free western coast allowed people in the past to travel north in the depths of winter.

There is a tradition that the word “Norðrvegr,” which is the old norse for “the way north”, mutated into the name of Norway.

In the interior, however, it is a different story. The mountain ranges block the warming winds, so temperatures can plummet as low down as -40°C. This occurs especially in Finnmark, Troms, Trøndelag and Eastern Norway, although each winter will be different. And on the upside, the mountains of western Norway provide good terrain for skiing, which is fun and promotes economic activity.

In the northern areas of Norway, which is sometimes referred to as the Land of the Midnight Sun, the sun never sets at the height of summer. For two and a half months of the year the sun stays above the horizon. In the depths of winter, the sun will be barely present for two gloomy months. This is a good area to experience the northern lights (the “aurora borealis”) in October, February and March, although they are occasionally seen in the south of Norway too.

Summer temperatures can reach 25°C–30°C, though mountainous areas will remain cool. The inland areas will be warmest; record temperatures have been recorded at Setesdal. With summer sea temperatures about 15°C, swimming is a popular activity at this time of the year. Many days will be bright and sunny, although occasional rainfall will appear. Locals will seize the chance to picnic, barbeque and enjoy a refreshing outdoor beer. On the 23rd June each year, Norwegians gather at the seaside to enjoy an evening feast warmed by bonfires and merriment.

Rainy weather and gales can be expected during most months of the year, but are particularly bad during the Autumn. The coastal areas experience higher levels of rain than inland. However, in the winter the rain inland is replaced by snow, and the area can experience Arctic conditions. The snow is generally present from December to April, but high in the mountains you can find piles of melting snow most of the year.

Because the summer weather varies so much in Norway, it can be difficult to pick an appropriate wardrobe for the warmer months. Layers become the key, allowing short sleeves for the clear sunny days where the sunshine holds, but supplemented with cardigans and jumpers for the sudden appearance of a cool breeze or heavy rainfall. It will always be much cooler in the evenings and at night.

An umbrella can be a useful item for walking about in an urban environment. However, the wind can be strong and especially in the countryside, so you may find a raincoat more resilient there.

For the rest of the year, clothing which will protect you from wind and rain is essential, with very warm coats and boots needed for the winter. Layers of clothing can keep you warmer than relying on one thick layer. Wool is a better material for this climate than cotton or polyester. If you are in the north of the country or in the mountain ranges it can be bitterly cold during winter; take care to dress sensibly if you are spending time outdoors.

If you are dressing for a walk out in the mountains it is essential to wear boots with a good grip, and bring waterproof and windproof clothing. Wear sunscreen from the outset as you are unlikely to realise you are getting burnt before it has happened. Temperatures can fluctuate wildly and it is easy to fall prey to unexpected cold conditions. Hypothermia causes confusion and weakness, and this can be deadly in an area with few locals or visitors. Frostbite is also a real possibility if you have not dressed appropriately in remote areas.

The glaciers are slowly melting, but are so huge they are a natural curiosity worth the long trip to see them. Sometimes you can pay to hire a guide and equipment to safely climb one. Do not ascend one without adequate equipment, training or supervision as they are higher and slippier than expected. If you see warning signs, stay away from the danger area, both on the ice and nearby on the rocky surrounds. Tourists from Italy, Britain and Germany have recently died during glacier visits, including a couple who were killed by a block of collapsing ice in front of their young children. Tour guides know the local conditions and risky areas well, and their expertise is worth paying for. Climbing a glacier is an exciting experience that few people get to enjoy, but you must always have respect for the dangers that are present.

Norway experiences the occasional earthquake. They are infrequent, and the most powerful earthquake in Norway’s recorded history only reached 6.2 on the Richter Scale. Because it was 90 miles out to sea, and the nearest settlement of Longyearbyen has buildings mostly constructed on pilings driven into the permafrost, no damage was recorded. There are no known incidents where earthquakes in Norway have caused loss of life.


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