Iceland: From Record Heat to Record Snow

Image Gunnar Freyr

One of the misconceptions with the term Little Ice Age is that we will have Dickens Winters. This perception, often portrayed in Hollywood films with snowy Christmases (if only!) is quite wrong.
A meridional or wavy jetstream brings a greater transport of cold and warn airmasses meaning records can go either way;

An Introduction to Satellite Image Interpretation

Eric D. Conway, Maryland Space Grant Consortium

This was something highlighted by Hubert Lamb and was one of the concerns during the Ice Age scare of the 1970’s when the jetstream was more meridional/wavy (emphasis added)

In Europe, there is a curious change in the pattern of variability: from some time between 1940 and 1960 onwards, the occurrence of extreme seasons – both as regards temperature and rainfall has notably increased.

A worldwide list of the extreme seasons reported since 1960 makes impressive reading. Among the items included:

1960-9 – Driest decade in central Chile since 1770’s and 1790’s.

1962-3 Coldest winter in England since 1740.

1962-5 Driest four-year period in the eastern United States since records began in 1738.

1963-4 Driest winter in England & Wales since 1743; coldest winter over an area from the lower Volga basin and Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf since 1745.

1965-6 Baltic Sea completely ice covered.

1968 Arctic sea ice half surrounded Iceland for the first time since 1888.

1968-73 Severest phase thus far of the prolonged drought in the Sahel, surpassing all 20thC experience.

1971-2 Coldest winter in more than 200 yrs in parts of European Russia and Turkey: River Tigris frozen over.

1972 Greatest heatwave in the long records for north Finland and northern Russia.

1973-4 Floods beyond all previous recorded experience stretching across the central Australian desert.

1974-5 Mildest winter in England since 1834.

1975-6 Great European drought produced the most severe soil moisture deficit that can be established in the London (Kew) records since 1698.

1975-6 Greatest heatwaves in the records for Denmark, Netherlands  and England.

1976-7 Severest winter in the temperature records (which began in 1738) for the eastern United States.

1978-9 Severest winter and lowest temperature recorded in 200 yrs in parts of northern Europe, and perhaps in the Moscow region. Snowfalls also extreme in parts of northern Europe.

This shortened list omits most of the notable events reported in the southern hemisphere and other parts of the world where instrument records do not extend so far back. Cases affecting the intermediate seasons, the springs and autumns, have also been omitted.

These variations, perhaps more than any underlying trend to a warmer or colder climate, create difficulties for the planning age in which we live. They may be associated with the increased meridionality of the general wind circulation, the greater frequency of blocking, of stationary high and low pressure systems, giving prolonged northerly winds in one longitude and southerly winds in another longitude sector in middle latitudes.

In Iceland February appears to be replicating such patterns;

There was unseasonably warm air over Iceland yesterday, according to meteorologist Trausti Jónsson’s blog.

Heat records for February were broken at many weather stations in East Iceland, and, surprisingly, the highest temperature readings came from the mountains.

One came from Brúðardalur in East Iceland, from an elevation of 300 m (984 ft). The weather station’s high yesterday was 17.8˚ C (64˚ F). It was not a national record, but an amazing number nonetheless. At Eyjabakkar, an automated weather station at an elevation of more than 650 m (2,133 ft), north of Vatnajökull glacier, the thermometer registered an incredible 19.1˚ C (66˚ F), albeit for only two minutes, shortly before 2 pm. That number remains to be verified, but if it’s accurate, it would break the national record of just over 18˚ C, set in 1998, according to RÚV

However two weeks later we see snow in Iceland followed by a new record;

There remains a possibility that due to the lying snow from this late February storm, this could create a new March record also. 

Trausti Jónsson

Mark Vogan has some great images and looks at the pattern here.

It is the climate changing but it has little to do with humans as it’s certainly not unprecedented to see these records.

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