Welcome to the Tropical Island of Iceland - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Welcome to the Tropical Island of Iceland

Welcome to the Tropical Island of Iceland

Published August 15, 2008

On a steamy summer day in July, Iceland breaks the hottest temperatures on record

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On a steamy summer day in July, Iceland breaks the hottest temperatures on record

Following an unusually squelching heat wave, temperatures topped out a blistering 26.2°C in Reykjavík on July 30th, breaking the all-time hottest record for the capital city.

It was a surreal experience for tourists, some of whom espoused incredulity with actually getting a sunburn in Iceland! Local citizens fought the weather with mass dips in the city’s pools as well as hitting up the geothermal beach. That same day, 42 km northeast of Reykjavík, Þingvellir was a blazing 29.7°C, the highest temperature ever recorded on a standard automatic station in Iceland.

According to Trausti Jónsson, Meteorologist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the record heat was caused by a perfect storm in conditions of which included warm air coming in from Europe, clear skies and the summer seasonal environment.

With polar bears drifting to Iceland in recent weeks from broken ice shelves and other bizarre melting phenomena, some have pondered whether climate change is just beginning to rear its head in Ice-land.

Jónsson said that you cannot attribute a single meteorological event to global warming but noted there was a growing warming pattern; however, he couldn’t say for certain that there was a connection for at least a few decades.

“The average temperature is usually 18° or 19° so 20° is very unusual. In the last century, we had temperatures reach 20°C, [approximately] eight out of twenty years; in this century, it’ll be 12 out of 20,” said Jónsson. “There is a lot of natural variability so it’s impossible to connect an individual heat wave with climate change and the record wasn’t broken by a wide margin. Before I would say there is a connection, we would have to wait 40 years and evaluate the data then.”

Questions over individual hot days notwith-standing, other factors are pointing to a warmer climate for the country. In particular, the increased waterflow from melting glaciers has been doing gangbusters for hydroelectric power company profits, like Landsvirkjun, who has seen a significant increase in water producing more energy than ever before.

Climatic signs like that have worried Iceland’s Ministry for the Environment enough that included in their Climate Change Long Term Visioning plan are adaptation strategies anticipating the danger of rising sea levels.

While Jónsson is anticipating more moderate temperatures for the next few weeks, with the climate acting so erratically in Iceland, it might be wise to keep a bottle of sunblock handy.

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