This is Arctic – Almost 80 % of the Faroe Islands has Arctic climate

Photo: On the mountain Slættaratindur, the highest mountain of the Faroes.

Did you know that there is no standard definition for Arctic? Almost 80 % of the Faroese area is in the regime of an Arctic climate, defined as mean monthly temperature below 10 deg Celsius for the warmest month. In the Faroes it means appr. the altitude of 200 m.

The most often used definitions for Arctic are (they refer to slightly different geographical areas, so don’t get confused to find trees north of the Arctic Circle):

  • The area north of the Arctic Circle (66° 33’N). This is also approximately the southern limit of the midnight sun and the polar night.
  • The 10 °C July isotherm, i.e., the area where the average temperature for the warmest month (July) is below 10 °C (50 °F)
  • The northernmost Arctic tree line boundary where trees can grow, which roughly follows the 10 °C isotherm.

Our experiences of the Arctic Faroes in March

We have now visited five of the 18 Faroese islands and walked along three of the most famous hiking routes while sampling water, snow and ice for chemical analysis of Black Carbon, Organic Carbon and dust. We also climbed to the highest mountain of the Faroes.

What about the weather?

We really had much better weather than expected on the basis of any statistics. Also, the closeby low pressures decided to go elsewhere. Lucky us! Most of the rain during our visit came at night. We also had some rain during daytime, but mostly these were slight showers only. Yet, the ground was quite wet (plus snow in the mountains) and waterproof winter hiking shoes were definately needed. Rubber boots would have been too slippery. This time of the year water really seems to be everywhere. You will experience it as rain or snow on you, as wet land under your feet, as natural streams almost every ten meters and as amazing water falls.

Visiting Torshavn FINI Office and meeting Lis

The FINI Office in Torshavn. The Faroe Islands Nature Investigation (FINI) belongs to Jarðfeingi (Faroese Earth and Energy Directorate) and partners.

The first morning (Day2, the next day after our first hike and first water, and actually our first snow sample, too) we visited the FINI Office in Torshavn to discuss more about our sampling plan face to face with our EU-Interact host Lis Mortensen. And it was a great discussion and we decided to go hiking together with Lis to get snow samples safely from the highest mountain of the Faroes and to find some permission-needed water samples. Super!

Walking in Torshavn

After the morning planning we headed walking for lunch to Torshavn. And it is such a lovely town! Here are some photos.

Hiking in the island of Nolsoy to get a water sample of a stream

There is a small island of Nolsoy just in front of Torshavn. You can reach it easily with a ferry and as there are practically no roads in Nolsoy, there is no need to take a car there. We took the morning ferry and hiked along the grassy and wet hiking route of the island.

You know you are on the route when you find the signs along it. Our stream sample was from a place with a sign, of course! At this time of the year no cafe or restaurant was open while we were in the island. Luckily the one and only shop of the island was open and we got a hot cacao after our many hours hike and while waiting for the return ferry.

Slættaratindur – Hiking in the highest mountain of the Faroes

Slættaratindur (Flat summit) is the highest mountain in the Faroe Islands at 882 meters above sea level. We (Lis, Outi and Laura) climbed together along the hiking route in order to get snow samples from various altitudes. It was hard work in winter conditions with up to 50 cm of snow.

In the summer this is a nice hike and takes like 2 hours to the top and down. But in winter conditions you should not try it without proper preparations and experience. Even for an experienced person the hike to summit and down can take 8 hours, as told here by one climber: We decided not to go all the way to the top as originally planned. The views from our highest elevation reached were magnificent and we were also pleased with that spot for snow sampling.

More Faroese stories can be found at the National Museum of the Faroes

The last visits we made in the Faroes were to the National Museum of the Faroes and to see the biggest viking rhyme stone found in the islands. You can read more about the museum here:

Our sixteen Faroese filter samples of snow, ice and water

These 16 filter samples of snow and ice and water were the outcome of our visit and contain the story of our Faroes experiences as told in this Arctic research blog.

The field research of the EU-Interact-BLACK-project in Faroes, in FINI and around, took place in March 2019 by me and my colleague Laura Thölix, FMI. Our aim was to collect samples on snow, natural water and drinking water, for filtering and chemical analysis of black carbon, organic carbon and dust.

Photos: Outi Meinander, Finnish Meteorological Institute.



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