Snowcover in Reykjavík and Akureyri

Most people abroad think that there is a lot of snow in Iceland. This is true for some parts of the country. As a rule there is much more snow in the North and East than in the South and West and the snowfall is more intense and longer lasting in the mountains and the central highlands than in lowland areas. Outside the towns blowing snow is often a traffic hazard even though the snow cover is light.

In Reykjavík in the Southwest, and in most of the surrounding lowlands, the snowfall is surprisingly light and many winter days are entirely snow-free. The snow is a bit more persistent at Akureyri in the north. Until recently tourism in Iceland has been more or less concentrated in the summer, but in recent years the influx of tourists has been increasing in the winter as well. I receive more and more enquiries on the snow cover and below you can find two standard tables summarizing the situation in Reykjavík and Akureyri during the period 1981 to 2010. It must be noted however that there is considerable year-to-year variability in the snow conditions. The table is also found in a text-file appendix for easier viewing (see the bottom of the page).

Snow cover and snowfall in Reykjavík and Akureyri 1981 to 2010
table headings are explained below):

Reykjavík (Southwest part of the country)  

STOD    MON     ALHV    ALAU    SNB     SNFJ    SNDG    SLALLS  SNALLS  URKALLS TEL
1       1       13.6    12.7    51.7    78.7    13.8    42.1    12.4    83.0    30
1       2       12.8    10.5    54.0    80.6    14.0    49.1    12.4    85.9    30
1       3       12.1    12.4    49.6    81.6    15.1    55.3    11.1    81.4    30
1       4       3.2     23.1    16.9    62.9    8.0     27.1    3.9     56.0    30
1       5       0.2     30.5    1.2     38.0    2.1     11.1    0.8     52.8    30
1       6       0.0     30.0    0.0     13.0    0.2     0.8     0.0     43.8    30
1       7       0.0     31.0    0.0     0.7     0.0     0.0     0.0     52.3    30
1       8       0.0     31.0    0.0     0.1     0.0     0.1     0.0     67.3    30
1       9       0.0     30.0    0.0     7.3     0.9     3.3     0.0     73.5    30
1       10      1.0     28.6    5.5     33.6    3.9     18.8    0.9     74.4    30
1       11      6.2     20.6    25.9    61.5    8.7     37.2    5.2     78.8    30
1       12      12.2    15.0    45.4    73.8    13.5    54.3    10.0    94.1    30 


The earliest case of snow covering the ground in Reykjavík is on 9 September 1926. There are cases of snow covering the ground in Reykjavík in early June, but it has always melted
before the offical morning observation (09 hrs). 


Akureyri (Northern part of the country) 


STOD    MAN     ALHV    ALAU    SNB     SNFJ    SNDG    SLALLS  SNALLS  URKALLS TEL
422     1       21.2    5.2     75.7    90.3    15.5    25.0    30.0    60.7    30
422     2       17.2    5.1     71.5    88.5    13.5    14.8    32.1    50.6    30
422     3       16.5    6.6     66.0    88.5    15.6    19.1    25.3    49.7    30
422     4       8.8     13.5    42.2    82.2    10.4    12.2    12.4    28.5    30
422     5       0.5     27.5    6.5     59.6    4.1     8.0     0.8     22.2    30
422     6       0.0     29.9    0.3     30.6    0.5     1.8     0.1     20.7    30
422     7       0.0     31.0    0.0     7.2     0.1     0.2     0.0     32.1    30
422     8       0.0     31.0    0.1     1.1     0.1     0.4     0.0     41.5    30
422     9       0.1     29.5    1.0     19.7    1.9     7.0     0.1     46.8    30
422     10      4.7     22.1    22.3    60.5    8.9     25.6    9.9     72.2    30
422     11      13.5    9.9     56.1    80.9    12.3    26.6    18.7    58.8    30
422     12      17.8    8.6     64.7    86.6    14.2    19.6    29.3    57.0    30 


The earliest case of snow covering the ground in Akureyri is on 7 September 1940, the official snowcover observations started in 1924. The snow probably reached sea level in Akureyri during the first days of August 1912. There are a few cases of snow covering the ground in Akureyri in the middle of June.   Table headings:

STOD: station id
MAN : month (1-12)
ALHV : number of days with 100% snow cover
ALAU : number of days with no (0%) snow cover 
SNB : average snowcover during the whole month (%)
SNFJ : average snowcover at 500-700 meters in nearby mountains (%)
SNDG : Number of days with snowfall or (snow and rain mixed) as precipitation type
SLALLS : Average total precipitation (mm) as snow and rain mixed
SNALLS : Average total precipitation (mm) as snow
URKALLS : Average total precipitation (mm) (all types)
TEL : number of years (here: 1981 to 2010)end


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Trausti Jónsson
Trausti Jónsson
Senior meteorologist at the Icelandic Met. Office. Speciality: Climatology
Apríl 2019
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