Norway, situated in the
far reaches of northern
Europe, is a large country with many varying climates. It’s very narrow,
especially in the north, but from top to bottom it’s almost 1000 miles. A large
part of the country lies in the Arctic Circle.
From hot summers to year round snow and ice; from 24 hour darkness to the
midnight sun, Norway’s
climate really is a mix of extremes.
The country sees four distinct seasons and differences in summer and winter
temperatures and daylight hours are vast. There are many different
microclimates found in this vast and wild country: from the wet and mild west
coast, to the snowy inland mountains, to the Arctic
north, to the warm and dry summers of the south-east.
climate is surprisingly temperate for its northerly latitude. This is thanks to
the warming effects of the Gulf Stream, a warm current that comes across the
Atlantic from the Gulf of Mexico. The effects
are felt all along Norway’s
vast 2500km long west coast. Even the coastal areas lying in the Arctic Circle are free of ice in winter. Inland, however
it gets much colder and there are places with year round snow as well as many
is a very mountainous country which leads to great climatic variation. One of
the most noticeable effects, apart the difference in temperature that occur at
higher altitudes, is the effect on precipitation. The west coast bears the
brunt of the Atlantic weather systems and some areas can receive up to 3000mm
of rainfall annually. The mountains act as a block to this weather and areas
east of the mountains can receive as little as 300mm a year. The mountains of Norway are one of the main reasons that its
neighbour to the east, Sweden,
is one of Europe’s driest countries.
Most of the four and a half million residents reside in the broad southern
part of the country where the climate is much milder.
The south of the country is, as you’d expect, the warmest part of the
country. The lowland area around Oslo is one of the
warmest and driest places in the country. Oslo's average temperature
ranges from 17°C in summer to -5°C in winter. Summer temperatures are the
warmest in the country. As Oslo is sheltered
from the Atlantic weather systems by the mountains to its east, rainfall is
lower and the city is one of the sunniest in the country.
The south coast around Kristiansand
is warm too and can enjoy excellent summers. It’s a bit more exposed to stormy
weather, however, and is wetter and windier than Oslo, although the
relatively temperate seas (thanks to the Gulf Stream)
mean winters here are milder.
The mountains in the south experience a different climate as well. Their
elevation – up to almost 2500m at the highest – means temperatures are
considerably colder. There is snow cover from November to May in the higher
mountains. Summers, however, are warm and precipitation decreases the further
east you go.
The West Coast
The stunning scenery of the west coast, with its plunging, winding fjords
make it one of the most popular places to visit in Norway and really should by
high up on anyone’s ‘must-see’ list.
The west coast has the mildest climate of the country, especially in the
south, with annual average temperature around 8°C. Variation in average
temperature across the year is lowest here - varying just 10°C-15°C across the
seasons. The warm seas from the Gulf Stream
make for the mildest winter temperatures in the country. Snow does fall along
the coast but rarely settles, while inland in the hills there is snow on the
ground for six months of the year in the south and for much longer further
The west coast is the wettest part of the country – it bears the brunt of
the Atlantic storms. Some areas along the coast can receive more than 3000mm
Two of Norway’s
largest cities are located on the west coast, towards the south. Stavanger and Bergen have grown
hugely in both population and wealth thanks mainly the oil business. They are
also important tourist centres due to the surrounding scenery, most notably the
fjords. Here average temperatures range from around 15°C to 1°C and rainfall
can occur year round, though it’s wettest in autumn and winter and driest in
has the mildest winters of any of the major cities in Norway.
As soon as you venture inland from Norway’s west coast it becomes
mountainous and the climate changes quickly, most noticeably with the colder
Mountains run all along the length of Norway, covering the interior of
the country. In fact the only mountain-free places are the west coast south of
the Arctic Circle, the far south and the lowlands around Oslo in the east.
In winter the mountains are home to snow, strong winds and severe frosts. In
the summer spells of fine weather can see daytime temperatures rise above 30°C
with long hours of sunshine. It get especially hot in the valley areas
sheltered by the tall mountains. Nesbyen in the
central southern region holds the record for the highest temperature recorded
There are many different microclimates found across the mountains, with
sheltered valleys that receive little rainfall and peaks exposed to vicious
winds. You may find it raining in one place, but travel further into another
valley and find sun.
The mountains of Norway
offer some great skiing, both Alpine downhill as well as traditional Nordic
cross-country skiing. Some of the best resorts, such as Hemsedal, Geilo, Stryn and Voss, are situated Buskerud
towards the southern end of the mountain chain. This is where most of Norway’s
highest mountains are situated.
For a wilder skiing experience, head to the far north of the country around Tromso and
beyond. Here the mountains plunge straight into the sea and snow can be found
year round on the higher peaks.
The Far North
This is perhaps one of the most fascinating parts of the country: the land
of the midnight sun and the northern lights. The average temperature has a
range of 30°C, from 13°C to -17°C between summer and winter in Norway’s most
northerly province, Finnmark.
has the coldest winters in the country with January averaging at -17°C. It has
been known to get below -50°C. Karasjok in Finnmark
holds the record for the lowest temperature recorded in Norway at -51.4°C.
Norway also owns the
Arctic archipelago of Svalbard,
situated midway between Norway
and the north pole. It’s very northerly and very cold here, although the North Atlantic drift does moderate the cold temperatures
and keeps the seas open and navigable for most of the year. Its effect means it
is much milder on the west coast than on the east. Average temperatures for the
area range between 5°C in summer and -12°C in winter.
The vast difference in sunlight hours has a huge impact on the weather in
the far north. The further north you go, obviously the more marked this
phenomenon is. In midsummer it doesn’t get properly dark anywhere in Norway, but from a little south of the Arctic Circle it is still possible to see the sun at
midnight. In the Arctic Circle midnight sun is
visible for just two nights each year. In Tromso in the
far north, you will see it from 17th May to 25th June.
Further north in Finnmark,
it is visible even longer. Conversely, in Tromso, the sun does
not appear over the horizon from November 26th to January 15th.
There is twilight for a few hours around noon, but you never glimpse the sun.
In Svalbard it is even more pronounced, with midnight sun
lasting from April 20th to August 26th, while the polar
night, with no sun, lasts between late October and mid February. Civil polar
night describes when there is so little light that it’s not possible to perform
outdoor activities without the aid of artificial light. This lasts from the 12th
November to end of January in Svalbard.