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How to Read the Weather Forecast in Iceland

21. September, 2018

The Icelandic Met Office has a website available in English, however, it can still be a bit tricky to interpret the forecast if you are not used to this format. Before we explain the forecast, its important to note that the forecast is only reliable about 2-3 days in advance. The forecast changes frequently so it is important that you monitor the weather right up until and during your trip. The weather influences travel in Iceland greatly so it is important that you are well informed. In addition to checking the weather forecast we recommend visiting our website safetravel.is daily to look out for any alerts which are updated daily.

On the Icelandic Met Office’s home page you will see 3 windows for wind, temperature and precipitation forecast. While all 3 will influence your travel, wind is the element that is most likely to give you issues. In case of storms or extreme weather you will see the Iceland icon in the upper right hand corner of the website illuminated in the affected regions.

How to read weather alerts:

  • Colour coded alerts are issued in cases of extreme weather (green/yellow/orange/red – red being very extreme emergency state weather)
  • The text will describe the expected weather in detail such as wind speed and which areas are most likely to be affected
  • The chart next to each text warning indicates the expected severity and likeliness of the weather
  • Each region specifies the time and date for which the alert will apply to the impacted region

According to the Met Office website: ”Weather warnings may be issued up to 5 days in advance. Warnings 3–5 days will be issued for the whole country, and 1–2-day warnings will be issued for smaller forecasting areas.”

A weather alert is issued that will affect the north east, eastern coastal areas, east fjords and the central highlands

How to read the wind forecast:

  • The wind forecast is shown using colours on a map of the country
  • You can select a specific region on the left hand side of the page
  • The forecast is given in metres per second along with a colour scale to represent the wind speed (use Google to convert to km/h or mph)
  • Below the map you can drag the cursor along the timeline to see how the weather progresses (Note this indicates steady wind speed and there can also be gusts that are stronger than the indicated wind speeds)

Green:

Anything on the green spectrum is fine for both driving cars, camper vans and hiking. This represents wind speeds of 0-6m/s (21km/h, 13mph).

Here you can see the wind forecast at a green range

Blue:

Hiking starts to get a bit more uncomfortable in the blue range. You may wish to postpone a hiking or camping trip in the upper range of the blue scale 14m/s (50km/h, 31mph) as tents might sustain some damage. If driving be careful when opening doors as they might get pulled by the wind. Camper vans and other wind sensitive vehicles may need to consider postponing travel in the upper ranges of the blue wind speed. If roads are icy you may wish to postpone travel at these wind speeds.

Here you can see the wind forecast at a blue range in Faxaflói

Purple:

Hiking and camping is not recommended. Tents will be broken and loose items may fly around. There have been instances in the past of trampolines and hot tubs being moved by the wind. Driving should only be considered if absolutely necessary to get from point A to B as you will likely feel the car being pulled around by the wind on the road. At this wind speed range there can be VERY strong wind gusts which may even cause a car to fly off the road. Camper vans should not attempt driving. If roads are icy driving should not be attempted.

Here you can see the wind forecast at a purple range in the south east of Iceland

Other Colours:

As wind speed increases new colours will appear on the map to indicate higher wind speeds. If you see new colours appearing on the map in regards to wind speeds there is a likely a storm forecasted in which case you should seek shelter until the storms passes.

Here you can see pink and yellow colours on the map to indicate higher wind speeds and severe storm conditions

How to read the temperature forecast:

  • The temperature forecast is indicated in degrees celsius using a colour scale
  • Be sure to factor the wind chill as it always feels colder when the wind is blowing

Here you can see the temperature reading system used by the Met Office

How to read the precipitation forecast:

  • The temperature forecast is indicated in millimetres per hour using a colour system
  • The scale does not indicate whether it is snow or rain so you must consult the temperature forecast to see which it is.
  • No colour indicates no precipitation.
  • Heavy precipitation can lead to flooding of areas as well as increased river levels.
  • Rain is very common in Iceland during all seasons (Do not expect that tours will be cancelled due to rain)
  • Snow can occur at any time of year but is most common in autumn, winter and spring

Complete Picture

Make sure you read all 3 forecasts to get a total picture of the weather and what to expect. If you are travelling make sure you check your destination’s weather as well as weather can vary greatly  between regions. Something to keep in mind is this is just a forecast, it is subject to change and should not be trusted upon 100%. Always be prepared for a variety of conditions so that you are not caught unprepared in poor weather. If you have questions you can always check in with a safetravel agent for help.

Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue, Tourist Information Center, Bankastræti 2, 101 Reykjavík Iceland safetravel@safetravel.is +354 570-5929 Disclaimer