Oooh, That Smell - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Oooh, That Smell

Published January 30, 2014

Larissa Kyzer
Photos by
Larissa Kyzer

Reykjavíkurs accustomed to Iceland’s atypically fresh and clean air have been plagued by a pervasive “suffocating moldy odor” throughout their fair city, Vísir reports. But while the unpleasant effluvium may sometimes recall that of a leaking septic tank, the cause is actually much more innocuous: decaying, frostbitten grass under melting sheets of ice.

“This [smell] is due to frost-damage on the grass,” said Þórólfur Jónsson, Reykjavík’s Head Gardener. “Ice has formed over large areas and the smell comes from underneath. People are talking about it now because there has been so little wind today and yesterday. So the smell doesn’t blow away, but settles.”

Þórólfur says that this situation doesn’t often come up in Reykjavík. “The circumstances are maybe a bit unusual right now. This must have happened before here in Reykjavík, but I can’t remember it in the last few years.”

The ice can get very thick, and Þórólfur said that there is little which can be done to prevent damage to the city’s fields.
“We get ice over open grounds first, without any heat underneath. Then the weather dances around the freezing point, thawing and freezing again, so the ice buildup gets very dense. We could see more damage if we don’t get a thaw.”

“We don’t have any solutions about this issue, other than to wait in prayer,” Þórólfur said. “I think that we have to figure out how to respond to this when all the ice has melted and the grass has come out.”

Correction: A previous version of this article said “We wouldn’t notice any damage if we didn’t have such an early thaw.” This has now been corrected to “We could see more damage if we don’t get a thaw.”

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