From Iceland — Ask A Meteorologist: Why Is Lightning So Rare In Iceland?

Ask A Meteorologist: Why Is Lightning So Rare In Iceland?

Ask A Meteorologist: Why Is Lightning So Rare In Iceland?

Published March 22, 2017

Joanna Smith
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Q: “Why is lightning so rare in Iceland?”

A: “Lightning is actually more common in Iceland than people realise, however in comparison to many other places on earth we get very little of it. The simple reason for this is that it doesn’t normally get warm enough in Iceland to create the conditions required for lightning. Cumulonimbus clouds are usually needed to create thunderstorms. For these clouds to form, the ground has to be hot in order for hot air to rise. Once risen, the water vapour in this air cools and forms the cloud. The warmer the air, the higher and larger the cloud will be. At the top of the cloud, pieces of ice form and crash into one another, which creates an electrical charge and with it, lightning. Any electrical potential will diminish with smaller clouds.

So, in Iceland, the ground is rarely warm enough to create these large cumulonimbus clouds in the first place, meaning that there is less chance for this electrical charge to be created and therefore, less chance of lightning.”

There you have it: Iceland is too cold for lightning. That may be a bit depressing to hear, but find solace in the fact that you are way less likely to be hit by lightning, and that’s always a good thing.

We asked Björn Sævar Einarsson at The Icelandic Met Office. If you have a question about Iceland that you would like answered, email us at and we will find the most suitable expert in the field in Iceland to resolve your conundrum.

Read more “Ask An Expert” articles here.

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