From Iceland — Betrayed By The Jet Stream

Betrayed By The Jet Stream

Published September 25, 2013

Betrayed By The Jet Stream

The weather. It’s a source for endless conversations by the water cooler, in taxis, in the elevator, at your doctor’s office. Yet, there’s really only so much to say: it’s either “good” or it’s “bad,” period. Or is there?
Given that everybody’s feelings are subjective, it’s basically impossible to come to a scientific conclusion about whether or not the weather is good or bad, but Market research company MMR gave it a good shot this August when it carried out a survey on how happy or unhappy Icelanders were about the weather this summer.
Overall, the study revealed that 44.9% of Icelanders were somewhat or very happy with the weather this summer, compared to 96.3% last year. Breaking the results down by region, 86.6% of the people living in Northeast Iceland were happy with their summer weather while only 57% of residents in the Northwest and mere 38.2% of people in the Reykjavík area were happy with this summer. And the people living in the Southwest either had the worst summer or are really sensitive because only 28.4% of them were happy with this year’s summer weather. That says a lot, doesn’t it?
Blame The Weatherman
Yep, the weather sucked. It sucked so much that people were taking their frustration out on the weather people! “I was getting fed up in June because people can be quite rude, calling or sending us mail to complain and complain, stopping us in the streets even,” says Elín Björk Jónsdóttir, one of the meteorologists at the Icelandic Met Offices.
We meet over a cuppa in downtown Reykjavík at the end of August, and it perhaps goes without saying that wind and rain bang the windows and it’s looking terribly autumn-like outside. Elín says people have calmed down since June. Either they’ve managed to soak up the sun somewhere during summer or have stopped fussing over it, hoping for a good autumn instead.
What might surprise people is that the summer of 2013, in the south and west, was not that bad compared to 1961–1990, the period commonly used for comparison. “But yes, it looks as if this summer is slightly colder than the previous summers, at least here in Reykjavík,” she says. “The biggest difference however is that there’s been much less sunshine than we’ve gotten used to in the past decade or so.”
She explains that the summer of 2013 was pretty much like the summers were when her generation was growing up, in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when the south and southwest part of Iceland mostly had mild but wet summers and the north and northeast got most of the sun and the heat. However, for the past decade, the south and west of Iceland have seen rather warm and unusually sunny summers year after year. Meanwhile, the summers on the other half of the island have only been mediocre at the most. This year, it turned right around.
“It might mean that this good spell in the Reykjavík area is over for a while,” she says, “but it’s not a long enough period to have significant impact on our records.” Then again, she says, the weather is unpredictable and a bad summer now does guarantee a good or bad summer next year.
Poor Weather Memory
Then there’s perspective. Although the summer was a bit of a shock, Elín says the people of Reykjavík might also be complaining because they measure the Icelandic weather against the weather in Scandinavia, or even Spain. “People travel much more now and after enjoying a few nice summer days in the other Nordic countries, they come home and expect the same here,” she says, noting that when the weather in Iceland is bad it’s typically good in Scandinavia and Great Britain due to the jet stream.
So, officially the temperature in Reykjavík this summer was below average, just a tad compared to the official 30 year period of ’61–´90, but a quite a bit if compared to the past decade. “It’s also the lack of sunshine and all the humidity that causes people to feel as if the summer weather was horrible. But also, Icelanders’ weather-memory really isn’t that good,” Elín chuckles and adds that most people seem to only remember last summer’s good days, or even just the best day, and then hope for a whole summer like that.
“People need to remind themselves where they live and tone down their expectations,” Elín says, glancing at the greyness outside the window.

The Summer Sucked
As we are called The REYKJAVÍK Grapevine, we’re going to concentrate on the weather in Reykjavík. And basically, it sucked this summer. June’s average temperature was 9.9°C, which is 0.6° lower than the average temperature in June for the past ten years. What’s more, there were only 121.7 hours of sunshine, which is 90 hours less than the average for June in the previous decade. As if that weren’t enough to put a damper on things, there was 30% more rainfall than usual and a record number of rainy days since June 2003.
Reykjavík’s summers are sometimes slow to start so everybody was crossing their fingers for July, but that turned out to be a total flop as well as it was the coldest July in Reykjavík since 2002, with an average temperature of only 10.6°C, 1.4 degrees lower than average temperature in July over the last decade. There was 40% more rainfall than the average July over the last decade and in fact, July hadn’t seen so much rain since 2002. Thanks to the last ten days of July, there turned out to be a whopping 164 hours of sunshine, though that’s still 37 hours less than the average in July for a whole decade.
After one good spell at the end of July, hopes were again crushed in early August with a rather disappointing bank holiday weekend. And on it went, windy and wet throughout the month. In fact, it was 1.2 degrees colder than what we’ve been used to in Reykjavík in the past ten years.

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