Climate of Spitsbergen
Spitsbergen (Norwegian: Svalbard) is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean and an overseas territory of Norway. Spitsbergen consists of three large islands (Spitsbergen, Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya) and dozens of small islands. Although the archipelago is under Norwegian supervision, it is an independent country with its own tax system and its own domain code for the internet (.sj).
Administratively, the more southern islands of Bereneiland (Bjørnøya) and Hopen also belong to Spitsbergen.
The islands are located within the Arctic Circle and therefore belong to the Arctic. This ensures that Spitsbergen has a polar climate (type EF/ET according to the Köppen-Geiger classification), with cold winters and cool summers. Due to the low temperatures, almost two thirds of the country is covered with glaciers, ice and snow. The sea around Spitsbergen is not frozen for a fairly large part of the year and is therefore well navigable. This is due to the warm Gulf Stream that sends relatively warm seawater from the Atlantic Ocean into the Arctic Ocean. In the northeast, this effect is virtually non-existent, so that the seawater there is cooler and there is a greater chance that the sea is (partially) frozen.
A strong wind blows quite often on the islands of Spitsbergen. In the period September to May, the wind, in combination with snowfall, can cause very bad weather. Snow storms and snowdrifts make it very unpleasant outside. When the wind dies down, it often feels less cold on Spitsbergen than it actually is. This is due to the low humidity. In the summer months it can even feel spring-like on good days with temperatures of ten to twelve degrees in sheltered places.
Summers in Spitsbergen are cold. During the day it will be around 4 to 7 degrees Celsius in the towns of Longyearbyen and Barentsburg. In June and July the temperature can rise to 10 to 12 degrees, which is really warm for this region. As soon as the temperature rises above twenty degrees, there is record heat. Such temperatures occur only a few times per century. The east, northeast and higher elevations of Spitsbergen are even cooler. In summer there is a good chance that it will even remain freezing during the day and under the supply of cold arctic air from the north it can snow in Spitsbergen even in the middle of summer.
Spitsbergen is a relatively dry country. The annual precipitation amounts are on average between one hundred and fifty and three hundred and fifty millimeters. A very large part of this precipitation falls in the form of snow, only in the summer months can it rain in Spitsbergen, especially in the southwest and southeast. Precipitation is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, with the spring being a bit drier.
The figures below are based on long-term average climate statistics. The temperatures are displayed in degrees Celsius (°C).
|Maximum temperature||Minimum temperature||Hours of sunshine per day||Days of rainfall per month||Water temperature|
Best time to visit Spitsbergen
Do you want to know when is the best time to travel to Spitsbergen? You can determine the best time to travel to a destination based on the weather and climate. In addition, there are other factors that are not directly related to the weather and that can influence the best travel periods for a travel destination. Think, for example, of holidays or festive periods, which makes traveling more interesting or not, because daily life comes to a standstill as a result. The archipelago Spitsbergen is located in the Arctic Ocean. It is part of the Kingdom of Norway. The northern location ensures a polar climate. However, it is less cold than you would expect for a destination at this latitude. The Gulf Stream ensures that the temperatures are somewhat tempered. It makes Spitsbergen a special destination above the Arctic Circle. In and around Spitsbergen live all kinds of animals that are easy to spot in the wild. Think whales, dolphins, walruses and polar bears. The rugged winter landscape in combination with these animals is the main reason for tourists to come to Spitsbergen.
The best time to travel for a holiday in Spitsbergen is in the months of July and August. Relatively speaking, it is then the warmest: about 5 to 10 degrees during the day and on average just above freezing at night. It is good to know that during this period there is almost continuous daylight. It is not until the end of August that the sun begins to set every 24 hours. In the middle of summer it is almost the only time that it can rain once in a while. The rest of the year precipitation is almost always snow. Although the temperatures are somewhat tempered, it is cold all year round in Spitsbergen. In winter, average maximum temperatures of -10 to -15 are normal, while at night it can get nasty cold with minimums often around or below minus twenty degrees. Due to the polar night, it is almost continuously dark from late October to mid-February. This is especially important to know if you are planning to go skiing in Spitsbergen. If you want to go skiing in Spitsbergen in the middle of winter, you cannot avoid going out with a headlamp.
Spitsbergen is a very snow-sure winter sports destination. The quality of the snow sometimes changes. The air is quite dry in Spitsbergen, which makes for high-density snow. Because the often present strong wind blows away the top layer of snow, you have large areas with a fairly hard layer of snow.