Arctic weather: 50 shades of white

If you have seen pictures from the Arctic, or try to google it, what will show up is most likely blue skies, sun and white ice (like the first picture). This is how I imagined it would be. However, I have learned and observed, this is not representative of the average weather up here.

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Sunny skies

The Arctic is mostly white, and that applies both to the skies and to the ice. Some days we have fog, other days there is no fog, only clouds. Blue skies are rare, and are treasured. Therefore, this is when all the nice pictures are taken (but isnt that always the case everywhere, though?).

The weather in the Arctic can change frequently and unpredictably, even over small distances. We can have nice weather and good visibility, and then all of a sudden we hit a wall of fog and everything turns white. After some time, the fog may disappear, and it is sunny again. Winds and precipitation come and go, and it is hard to know what comes next.

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Grey weather and strong winds

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Grey, but good visibility

Nobody makes weather forecasts for the high Arctic, since there are rarely any people here. Therefore, we have our own on board expedition meteorologist, Nicke Juuso from the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat. Every morning at 07:00, Nicke briefs the captain, the officers, the helicopter crew and the expedition leader group on todays weather. Weather is important for navigation, helicopter operations and safety on board. If there are i.e. high winds, they will issue warnings on the info screens around on the vessel. Nicke also monitors the weather closely when we have helicopter operations, and communicates with the pilot during take-off and landing. Additionally, he talks to the pilot when they are out, letting them know if there is bad weather coming and they need to come back. This happened when I was assisting on an ice station; we were called back on short notice due to incoming snow and fog).

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Thick fog

According to the captain, we have had much better weather than what is normal on this trip. Better weather means good visibility and sunny or light clouds. We have also had more wind than normal. However, we have only seen one polar bear so far (and most people did not see it). Could it be that we have traded wild life for sunny skies? If so, I would like to trade in some (not all!) of the sun for a polar bear, please!


5 thoughts on “Arctic weather: 50 shades of white

  1. Pingback: Time zones on the top of the world | Runa Skarbø

  2. Pingback: Photo(s) of the day: Arctic sun and halos | Runa Skarbø

  3. I have been following this blog from its inception and Must thank you because I am

    able to follow my daughter La Daana Kanhai on her research expedition.

    All the best to the group on this second half.

    Be blessed

    Kewley Khalawan Kanhai.



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