Conditions and Climate - When to come

In my opinion, one of the best reasons for living in Norway is that we, unlike the rest of Europe have real difference between summer and winter. Light, snow, temperature - everything changes - this makes the life worth living!

Although there are a lot of similarities it is difficult to say something general about all of Norway without emphasizing that Norway is a huge country. There are a lot of differences between the different part of the country, both in weather and other conditions.

Weather

For all practical matters, one can split norway into two climatological zones, the west and the east. This Weather Line start at Vardø in Finnmark and goes straight to Alta. From here it follows the Norway/Sweden border to Trondheim. (Troms and Nordland is West of the line.) From Trondheim it follows Trollheimen, Dovrefjell, Reinheimen, Jotunheimen, Skarvheimen, Hardangervidda and Heiene before it ends in the sea at Lindesnes, Norways southernmost point.

The areas west of this line has a wet, unstable climate, much under influence by western winds from the Atlantic, carrying rain and snow. This means that the weather often is wet. It also means days during the Autumn and Winter with severe storms. However, this climate also means lots of snow to ski in, glaciers, lakes, beautiful waterfalls, rivers and others sights you can see in Western- and Northern- Norway only! The influence of the sea and the Gulf Stream also means that the temperature in the Western Zone is milder than in the Eastern. I.e. in Bergen the temperature seldom goes below -5 C in the winter. In Tromsø, the temperature is seldom below -15 C in the winter. Summer temperatures at sea-level in the West- Zone is generally between 15 and 25 at highest in Southern-Norway. In Northern-Norway, the temperature seldom goes above 20 C.

The Eastern - Zone has a climate that is pretty much the opposite as that of the west. Few days with rain/snow and many days with a clear blue sky and little wind. The temperature is more at the extremes. Temperatures between 20 and 30 is not uncommon in the summer, and the winter temperatures can be severe, usually around -20 - -30 C in the upper valleys in January - February. Røros has the lowest temperature-record of Norway with -52 C.

The different seasons often give different weather in the Western and Eastern Zones. January - March often brings wet weather to the west, while the east has nice and cold weather. April - June often bring the west long periods of good weather, which makes this time of the year a very good period to travel there. It's recognizable that good weather in the east gives bad in the west and vice versa. (One of the reasons behind quarreling between the capital Oslo, and Bergen, the second largest city!) July and August often brings rain in the west and stable hot weather in the east, while September often is good all over the country. October - December usually brings a stable rain weather to the west, often with severe storms.

The east-west line goes through some of the mountain areas. In these areas you will often find huge differences in weather and snow conditions, which makes these areas more attractive.

Snow

The coast of Southern - Norway, from Larvik to Bergen, to Kristiansund has a very mild climate, due to being so close to the sea. The lowland in these areas normally do not have any snow in the winter, except for sudden snowfalls during November - February where the snow stay for maximum one week.

The valleys of Eastern Norway and Trøndelag (the area around Trondheim) have very varying conditions depending on the year. Normally there is a stable snow-layer in the lowland from December to March. The stable climate in these areas usually make driving no problem no matter how much snow there is.

The coastline in Northern-Norway from Nordland to Finnmark has a very varying climate, and it is often cold enough to produce snow. The result is that these areas often get quite a lot of snow. In the lowlands it is usually enough for skiing from December - March.

The mountain-areas in Western-Norway, Nordland, Troms and the coast-near part of Finnmark are the most snow-rich areas in Norway. This snow comes with western wind from the North and Norwegian Seas and falls on the West side of the Weather Line in the mountains. Areas west of this line will seldom have to little snow for skiing from December to May (even June some places). The periods October - December and June can be a problem for mountaineers because there is too little snow for skiing, but too much for hiking. This can be overcome by checking out the local conditions at the time and finding the right place.

The mountains in Eastern-Norway and in the inner part of Finnmark has usually much less snow than the mountains in Western-Norway, Nordland and Troms. However, the more stable weather conditions means that fine skiing can be done here too. The season is normally January - April.

Light

The first new rule a foreign driver in Norway encounters is that he is required to drive with the lights on in the middle of the day! The reason is special light-conditions. Due to the country's position far north there are long periods of low sun. This gives the light in Norway a very special colour - especially in the winter.

North of the Arctic Circle there is a period with Midnight Sun around midsummernight, 21. June. There is also a period of total dark around midwinter, the 21. December. The length of this period varies with the latitude. For instance Harstad had midnight-sun from 22. May to 21. July, whilst Longyearbyen on Svalbard had midnight-sun from April to September. Most tourists come to see the midnight sun, but the Total Dark can also be worth an experience. Despite the name, it is never totally dark on mainland Norway, but in the period around midwinter, 21. December, the sun never rises above the horizon in Northern Norway. At these times, the only light during the day is a red coloured light around noon. These times are great for viewing the Northern Lights.

The Northern Lights is particles from the sun burning in the atmosphere. These lights only occur close to the poles because of the polarity of the particles and the earth's magnetic field. To see the northern lights, if you do, will most probably be the greatest experience of your trip. The light start as small rays of violet light in the corner of the sky, but soon spread out as a curtain. This curtain rolls over and over again, revealing colours of green, violet and pink. Sometimes it can be so strong that the entire landscape is enlightened.

The chances of seeing northern lights are highest in Northern Norway and Svalbard on clear nights in the Autumn and the Winter. (October - February) For some reason the "show" starts usually between 16.00 and 21.00 and can last for several hours.

Driving

Driving in Norway summertime should not be a problem as long as you follow the local legislation, and remember who you are. Norway has a lot of narrow winding roads. Therefore you should bring a light vehicle, with sufficient horsepower. Remember; the locals know the conditions and the roads. Stop now and then and let them pass.

Driving wintertime can be challenging. The locals use special tires with spikes. If you don't have them, bring chains and drive carefully. In most of inner Norway, the roads will be covered with snow in the winter. The main roads are treated with salt, but this means that the snow and ice will get even more slippery as soon as you get off them. The most important is: drive with care. Norwegians have special courses in winter-driving and have been doing this all their lives. Do not follow their speed.

Many mountain-roads are closed during the winter. Only main connection roads are kept open, but these can also be closed during bad weather or snow-conditions. Check with locals and look for the signs "Åpen" (Open), "Stengt" (Closed) and "Kolonnekjøring" (Line-driving).

Line-driving is a special custom to get important traffic across the mountain during bad weather. The cars are gathered up in a tunnel, and drive in a line close to each other to cross the mountain. If you encounter this: Use yellow flashing warning lights when driving, and DO NOT loose the sight of the car in front of you. If you do, keep the lights on, and don't go out. It's impossible for the plough-driver to see you...

Norway Weather Forecast



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