What Type Of Climate Does Iceland Have?

Rainy weather in Iceland.

Iceland is an island country situated in the Atlantic Ocean. This Nordic island country has an area of approximately 40,000 square miles and a population of about 357,000 people, making it Europe’s least populated country. Iceland’s capital and largest city is Reykjavik, with the city and the surrounding area accounting for approximately 70% of the population. According to the Sagas of Icelander, the first Norseman to reach Iceland was Norwegian named Naddodd. He named the country “snow land” because it was covered in snow at the time. The present name “Iceland” was given by a Viking named Floki Vilgeroarson. The name may have been chosen to discourage over-settlement on the island.

Geography Of Iceland

Iceland is located at the junction of the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean. The country’s main island is located entirely south of the Arctic Circle. Iceland is relatively closer to continental Europe than it is to North America. Geographically, politically, culturally, and practically, the country is located in Europe. The closest lands in Europe are Faroe Island, Shetland, Jan Mayen, and the Outer Hebrides. Norway is Europe’s nearest mainland at about 600 miles while North America is about 1,290 miles. Iceland is the 18th largest island in the world and the 2nd largest in Europe, covering an area of approximately 40,000 square miles. Iceland has 30 other minor islands, including Vestmannaeyjar and Grimsey. About 14% of the total land area is covered by lakes and glacier and only 23% is covered by vegetation.

Overview Of The Climate Of Iceland

According to Koppen climate classification, Iceland’s climate is subarctic at the south coastal region and tundra in the highland and inland regions. The island is located along the North Atlantic Current, making the climate of Iceland more temperate than most places with similar latitudes in the world. Other regions around the world with such a climate are the Alaska Peninsula, Aleutian Island, and Tierra del Fuego. The effects of the current are aided by Irminger Current that also result to the moderate temperature on the island. The weather pattern in Iceland can greatly vary between different parts of the island. The south coast is generally wetter, warmer, and windier than the north coast. The coldest parts of the country are the Central Highlands while the most arid is the low-lying inland regions. During winter, snowfall is more common in the north than in the south. During this season, the aurora borealis is often visible at night. Despite Iceland’s close proximity to the Arctic, its coast remains ice-free even during the winter. Ice incursion has not occurred on the north coast since 1969.

The Dynamic Climate Of Iceland

In Iceland, the people normally say “If you do not like the weather right now, just wait five minutes” in reference to the strong variability of the country’s climate. Occasionally, one can experience all the four seasons within a day due to Iceland’s location at the border between Arctic’s cold air mass and the warm air mass of the low latitude. The branch of the Gulf Stream known as Irminger Current, flowing along the western and southern coast greatly moderates the temperature. The coastal sea surface area has a temperature of approximately 20 degrees C between January and March and rises to 100C during the summer months. The country has no rainy season but precipitation is at its peak from October to February with western and southern part receiving more rain than the rest of the country. The weather is mainly influenced by the wind.

Seasons And Temperature


Although Iceland is situated south of the Arctic Circle, it has four distinct seasons with distinct weather patterns and characteristics. These seasons are winter, summer, spring, and autumn. Winters are generally milder for its northerly latitude, owing to the maritime influence and its proximity to the North Atlantic Current. The temperatures of the coastal lowlands average close to 00 C while those of the highlands of central Iceland fall to below -100 C. The southern lowlands also average 00 C. The lowest temperature in the northern region ranges from -20 to -300 C. The frequency of storms and thunderstorm is higher in the winter.


The summer season starts in June and ends in late August. This is generally the most popular season among the residents and tourists visiting Iceland. During summer, the weather is fairly mild and calm with occasional deep low-pressure cyclones. The meadows turn neon green and Viking horses are released to the field. Days are generally warm and the sun may be experienced at midnight, giving it 24 hours of daylight. In July, the average temperature in the southern region is 10-130 C. Temperatures on the warm summer days can reach 20-250 C. Dust storms are frequent during this season.

Storms And Atmospheric Pressure

Thunderstorms are not common in Iceland but occasionally occur in late summer in southern Iceland, particularly when the warm air is deflected to the northern latitude. In winter, thunderstorms are linked to the deep lows approaching from the southwest. Cold air coming off Canada warms rapidly over the ocean and form thunderclouds. Lightning may be observed during a thunderstorm and is usually connected to the ash plumes originating from the erupting volcanoes. Mesocyclones are rare and are mainly derived from tornadoes. Waterspouts and landspouts have also occasionally been observed but all these have not caused any significant damage because of the sparse population. An area near Iceland known as Icelandic Low located between Greenland and Iceland has persistently low pressure, affecting the amount of air being brought into the Arctic to the east and leaving the Arctic to the west.


More in Environment