Everything you need to know about the weather in Iceland. Must read before driving in Iceland.
Iceland is beautiful and it has the most amazing weather in the world.
From beautiful sunsets…
To dramatic skies…
But our weather has its temper. Or I call them mood swings. In fact, the mood swings of the Icelandic weather are quite dramatic. So much so that the locals came up with a saying for it.
Yes, it is that bad or good or awesome. Whatever you like to call it. You can be driving along one stretch of road and have hail, followed by sunshine, then snowstorm, then fog, and repeat. How is that even possible? God knows. This is Iceland and welcomes to Iceland.
Our amazing, temperamental, and unpredictable weather is something that you really need to prepare for. The last thing that you need is to be caught in a bad storm and have your holidays ruined.
Iceland is number 3 in the world for strong wind. Who is number 1 and 2? The North Pole and Antarctica. We have a lot of wind and some very crazy ones.
This is how our wind forecast looks like.
Brown is a category one hurricane. Magenta is a category two hurricane. Weather charts like this are actually quite common, especially during the winter. Occurs maybe once every two weeks.
With wind speed like this, you will probably get weather alerts like this.
A yellow alert means to drive at your own risk. Orange means don’t drive unless it is “life or death”.
By the rule of the thumb, any wind speed more than 25m/s all large vehicles are grounded. Large vehicles I mean trucks, buses, trailers, etc. Any wind speed more than 32m/s, all vehicles are not advised to travel. If you insist to drive and fly off the road, the insurance company might not cover the damages.
#2 More Wind
Can there be more wind than this? Of course!
Once in a blue moon, we will have weathers like this and that is a red alert. Roads are closed and you probably won’t be able to go anywhere.
There will be road signs like this.
What it says is “Road is closed due to weather, if you insist to drive on, whatever happens, is your problem”.
Okay, now that we have dealt with the worst of them all, ice cannot be that bad, right? Yes, it is not that bad, just different kinds of bad.
You can find the road conditions like the picture above on www.road.is. It is updated several times a day.
These are what the colors really mean.
Green – the road is normal, just drive like normal.
Orange – a little bit of ice or snow but should not cause any problem, just pay attention when you drive.
Light Blue – Slippery road, drive with care
Dark Blue – Extremely slippery road, if you do not have spikes on your tires, don’t even think about driving on it. Even if you have spikes, it is still slippery so drive slowly and carefully.
White – Road is cover in 10cm of snow, if you are in a Lamborghini or Ferrari, you won’t be able to pass cos you are too low.
Pink – Difficult road, 10-20 cm of snow. Only 4×4 vehicles can manage these roads.
Black – Very difficult road, more than 20cm of snow. Only large jeeps (aka super jeeps) can manage these roads.
Red – Closed/Impassable. Simple. It’s closed. If you insist to use this road, whatever happens, is your problem.
Gray/Gray with a question mark – No winter service. Nobody is using this road and nobody is monitoring this road so nobody knows how the road conditions are so you can find out if you want to and we will read about it in the news.
So, what’s the big deal about ice?
No big deal. The car will just glide in whichever direction it wants to and turning the steering wheel will not do anything at all. The car will eventually stop when it hits something, like a wall, or rock, or another car. So, driving on an extremely icy road is the same as leaving your life in the hands of fate. Whatever happens, happens and there is nothing you can do about it. Maybe except to not even drive in that condition, to begin with.
The emergency number in Iceland is 112.
Snow is not so bad. It is pretty and fluffy. Except when it is coming straight at your face and you cannot see where you are going.
It is quite a common sight to see cars ending up in a snow ditch during winter because the road is not quite visible and the driver ends up driving off the road.
Picture by Visir.
Driving in snowing weather is not as easy as many might imagine. If you have never done this before, be extra careful. Read up on some tips on driving in snow and understand the handling of your vehicle before heading out.
Snowy conditions and icy conditions usually go hand-in-hand so two bad do not make one good.
This is painful. It is like being stabbed by thousands of ice needles or like having thousands of golf balls shot at you. Not pleasant at all. When it hails, find shelter, fast.
Although in Iceland, golf-ball-size hailing is not very common, the usual hailing is painful enough.
If you are driving when it hails, just keep driving. Don’t stop. The hail might not kill you but stop in the middle of the road will. If it is hailing very badly and you need to stop, find a safe place to stop by the side of the road.
Rain is mostly nothing. In Iceland, we do not have downpours like in tropical or temperate countries. Our rain falls horizontally. Umbrella doesn’t really work in Iceland so most people do not even own one. Get yourself a raincoat or a waterproof outer shell. That will be good enough to keep you dry (kinda).
Picture by Visir.
The thing about too much rain is that it might cause landslide and this is something that you might need to take note of, especially if you will be driving in the fjords.
Check https://en.vedur.is/ for any warnings.
It is not ideal to drive in fog as visibility is low. You can drive slowly and carefully if you know where you are going. Otherwise, it will be better to find a safe place to stop and wait it out. And turn on your fog light in the car.
Fog causes disorientation and it will be extra bad if you are hiking without a clear path to follow. People have gotten lost in the fog and are found somewhere far from where they thought they should be.
Fog is not scary, but getting lost in a fog might put you in a dangerous situation and that can be scary. If you are not sure where you are going, it will really be better to just wait it out.
With all these said, be careful when traveling in Iceland. People have died messing with the weather here so please do not add yourself to the body count.
The emergency contact number is 112.
The weather forecast website is www.vedur.is.
Just be careful, be informed, and know what you are doing. Have fun in Iceland.