Subarctic-Arctic Iceland: Snow, ice and water for chemical analysis of Black Carbon and volcanic dust

The average temperature of the warmest month (July) exceeds 10°C in the lowlands of southern and western Iceland, but is below that in other parts of the country. This makes the larger part of Iceland belonging to the arctic climate zone. 

Sampling snow, ice and water in February in Iceland definately requires the right attitude. It is icy and slippery everywhere (and often very windy too!) and the best shoes for sampling come with spikes.

The spikes can be really big like the ones above, in the crampons made for blue ice glacier walking (those were the ones we actually used during this EU-Interact-BLACK project glacier sampling) or smaller ones like in the figure below, where the spikes are attached permanently to the shoe. This kind of spike shoes are commonly sold and used in Finland and they are most useful for everyday walking outdoors during the icy and slippery times of the year.

Photo. Shoes with spikes are commonly sold and used in Finland.

For the first glacier visit to Solheimasjokull, we had truly an international group of scientists. We were Zongbo Shi, Jill Bachelder, Isatis Cintron, Pavla Dagsson- Waldhauserová and me from UK, Canada, USA/Austria, Czech/Iceland, and Finland. From the EU-Interact-BLACK team members, Pavla Dagsson-Waldhauserová and me (many many thanks Pavla!) continued also further to Vatnajokull together with Isatis, who was the key person to arrange our campaign there! Many thanks to Isatis for this wonderful campaign! These all glacier visits were truly amazing and we had really good luck with the perfect weather, too. These samples I then took with me to the Sudurnes center and melted and filtered them there. Here below some photos for you to share some of our glacier experiences.

Photo. Up in the Vatnajokull glacier. Photos. Solheimajokull glacier.

In addition to glaciers, the sampling included sampling of drinking water and natural water, as well as seasonal surface snow for the analysis of black carbon, organic carbon and dust contents. Hence, all the planned types of different samples were successfully collected for February 2019, to represent winter concentrations of impurities.

Photos. Sudurnes Center and some of the sampling places around it. The sea around Iceland is open.

Hence, the Iceland visit was both successful and amazing, but sometimes very very windy and with worse winter road conditions! Check the maps here below. The weather maps are available at the web pages of the Icelandic Met Office at and I studied them first in the mornings when starting planning the day, and especially I checked the winds. The road maps are at

Figure. The weather forecast map for 20 Feb 2019 at 6 am GMT, produced by the Icelandic Met Office. The red arrows indicate very strong winds.

Figure. Yellow alert for weather in Iceland for strong gales on 20 Feb, by the Icelandic Met Office. You can find their mobile app by typing “vedur”.

Figure. The road conditions can be found at The best way to get information about road conditions and the weather on the road system is to call 1777 (if problems use +354 522 1100). Open 8-16 in summer and 6:30-22 in winter.    

Figure. The symbols used for the road conditions at Many roads are closed the whole winter and driving is prohibited.

Now back in Finland, thank you Iceland and I want to thank all the wonderful people who were together with me in the field, as well as the great people of Sudurnes Science and Learning Center. It was great meeting you all and especially the one true Icelandic, the smiling and friendly Iceland sheep dog, in photo here below!

Photo. The smiling Icelandic sheep dog I got to meet at Sudurnes, Briet.

Photos and video: Outi Meinander, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Finland

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s