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Climate - Norway

Temperature, rainfall, prevailing weather conditions, when to go, what to pack

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Flag - Norway

Map - Norway

Norway is a Nordic country, but it is influenced by the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, so its climate is less cold than you might think, particularly along the west coast. However, the country is very extended in latitude, with a rugged coastline, plateaus and mountain ranges, so it has different climates to be taken into account.
The ocean (whose surface temperature reamins a few degrees above freezing even in winter) temper the winter weather, while it remains cool in the summer, therefore reducing the annual temperature range along the coast. This mild influence hardly affects the interior, because in Norway there are almost no plains, hence, highlands and mountain ranges block or at least hinder the penetration of mild currents coming from the sea.
The following map shows the climate zones of Norway.

Norway climate zones

The west coast has a cool, wet climate, characterized by the frequent passage of weather fronts, so that clouds, rain and wind dominate throughout the year.
During winter, the temperature remains slightly above freezing in the southern part, so that Bergen, the second largest city in the country, has an average temperature in January and February around 2 °C. Precipitation does not always occur in the form of snow, but often in the form of continuous and cold drizzle.
Here are the average temperatures of Bergen.
Bergen average temperatures
Bergen J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 0 -1 1 3 7 10 12 12 9 7 3 1
Max (°C) 4 4 6 9 14 17 18 17 14 11 7 5

The temperature of the sea at Bergen is cold, but it's mild for the latitude, as we can see from the following table.
Sea temperature Bergen
Bergen J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sea (°C) 7 6 6 6 8 11 14 15 13 11 9 8

Moving to the north, the temperature gradually decreases, but the average daily temperature reaches the freezing point only around the 65th parallel, just below the Arctic Circle. It's remarkable that the Lofoten and Vesteralen Islands, located above the Arctic Circle itself, even in winter can sometimes experience rain instead of snow. Continuing to the north, the temperature goes down a few degrees below freezing, and the snow becomes frequent even along the coast, but at this point we enter in the climate area of the northern coast (as shown in the map above).
The sea, which in winter makes the air milder, during summer becomes a source of cool air, so that in July and August, along the west coast the maximum temperatures are around 15 °C, and the minima around 10 °C. However, if you move a few kilometres inland, you can experience an increase in daytime temperatures, which can rise by a few degrees, and this happens in Bergen and other towns located not directly on the ocean coast, but within fjords.
The rainfall is quite common along the western slope. In the southern area, it's also abundant: in Bergen the average annual precipitation is about 2,200 millimetres, but in cities located at the foot of the hills it can exceed 3,000 mm.
Here is the average precipitation in Bergen.
Average precipitation Bergen
Bergen J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 190 150 170 115 105 130 150 190 285 270 260 235 2250
Days 21 17 19 17 17 16 18 19 23 24 22 22 235

Continuing to the north along the coast, rainfall is still frequent, but it becomes less abundant, and drops below 1,000 mm in the coast north of Trondheim, although it can still reach 2,000 mm in the slopes near the coast, where there are hills directly exposed to the westerly winds.

The north coast is a bit colder than the western one, and has a subpolar oceanic climate, although a branch of the Gulf Stream arrives here as well. The result is that the open sea does not freeze even at these latitudes, and this is a unique fact in the world. The following table shows the temperature of the sea at the North Cape.
Sea temperature North Cape
North Cape J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sea (°C) 5 4 4 4 5 7 9 10 9 7 6 6

The average winter temperatures, however, drop below freezing, and tend to decrease moving towards the east: the average in January and February ranges from -2 °C to -6 °C, from the west to the east. At North Cape, in winter the temperatures are similar to those of Oslo, even though here the winter lasts longer. The northern coast is close enough to the Pole and thus is subject to the polar winds, which can be furious, especially in winter and spring.
North Cape average temperatures
North Cape J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) -6 -6 -4 -2 2 5 8 8 5 2 -2 -4
Max (°C) -2 -2 -1 1 5 9 13 12 9 5 1 -1

In summer, July and August, which have an average temperature around 10 °C, are the mildest and also the quietest months, with the lowest risk of wind. Near the Arctic Circle, you can see the midnight sun around the summer solstice (21 June), and for a period much longer as you head north. At the North Cape, the sun never sets from mid-May to late July.
At North Cape, precipitation amounts to about 800 mm per year. Summer is the least rainy season, although there are still 9/10 days with rain per month. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation North Cape
North Cape J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 95 75 65 60 40 40 45 50 60 85 80 100 795
Days 18 15 15 14 11 10 9 10 14 18 17 19 170

Even here on the north coast, within the fjords there's a decrease in the winter temperatures, so that in the deepest fjord the sea can freeze in winter, and an increase in the summer temperatures: in fact here the effect is even more pronounced than on the west coast. For example, in Lakselv, located in the southern part of a fjord, more than 120 kilometres away from the ocean coast, the average in January is -10 °C, while directly on the coast it's just -4 °C.

The south coast, facing south-east, on the Skagerrak strait which separates Norway from Denmark, is less influenced by the ocean than the west coast, therefore it is less humid and rainy compared with the area of Bergen, a little colder in winter (with average temperatures just below freezing), and warmer in summer, with a daily maximum around 20 °C, when the stay is pleasant and you can expect even some sunshine.
Kristiansand average temperatures
Kristiansand J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) -5 -5 -2 1 6 9 11 10 8 5 0 -3
Max (°C) 1 2 4 9 14 19 20 19 16 11 6 3

In Kristiansand, precipitation amounts to 1,300 mm per year, so it is quite abundant, but it's still much better than in Bergen.
Average precipitation Kristiansand
Kristiansand J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 120 80 85 60 85 75 90 120 140 165 165 115 1300
Days 19 15 16 12 14 12 13 17 18 19 20 19 194

The fjords of Norway, which we have already mentioned, have different microclimates depending on their shape and size, and also on slope exposure, but generally, the more they penetrate inland, the less they become rainy throughout the year, while they become colder in winter and warmer and sunnier in summer. For example, the city of Trondheim, located inside a large and deep fjord extended into the western coast, has an average temperature of -3.5 °C in January, and an average of 14 °C in July, and therefore it can be included in the continental climate zone, while in Kristiansund, on the west coast at the same latitude, the average is 1 °C in January, and 13 °C in July.
Trondheim average temperatures
Trondheim J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) -7 -6 -3 0 5 9 10 10 7 3 -2 -5
Max (°C) 0 1 4 8 14 17 18 18 14 9 4 2

In Trondheim, about 900 mm of rain or snow per year fall; here also the wettest season is autumn. Here is average precipitation.
Average precipitation Trondheim
Trondheim J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 65 50 55 50 55 70 95 85 115 105 70 85 890
Days 18 16 16 16 15 17 19 18 22 22 18 19 216

The inland areas of Norway have a continental climate, with cold, snowy winters and mild summers. Typically the interior is covered with hills and mountains, and the temperature decreases with increasing altitude, so that at higher altitudes there is a mountain climate. The snowline in Norway is quite low, about 1,500 metres.
The coldest area of the country is the Norwegian part of Lapland, which corresponds to the southern part of the Finnmark County. Here the winter is really frigid, in fact the temperature can drop to -50 °C in the worst moments. Summer is short but intense: in the three months, during which the temperature rises above freezing even at night, the vegetation explodes, and the days are very long. Sometimes it can get even hot, so that the daytime temperature can reach 30 °C, while the nigths remain cool or even cold.
Karasjok average temperatures
Karasjok J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) -23 -22 -17 -9 -1 5 8 6 2 -5 -14 -21
Max (°C) -12 -10 -4 1 7 15 18 15 9 2 -5 -10

In this area, precipitation is much scarcer than in the rest of Norway, both for the distance from the sea and for the cold, so that it does not reach 400 mm per year, although in summer, when temperatures rise, precipitation, which in this season occurs in the form of rain, is more abundant. Here is average precipitation in Karasjok.
Average precipitation Karasjok
Karasjok J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 20 15 15 15 25 40 70 60 40 35 20 15 365
Days 6 5 5 5 6 8 11 11 9 8 7 6 87

In the central area, on the border with Sweden, ie the northern part of Hedmark and the eastern part of Sør-Trøndelag, very marked continental features are also found because of the distance from the sea, of its belonging to the eastern slope, and of altitude, as this area is dominated by a high plateau between 500 and 1,000 metres. Here during the winter, the temperature can drop below -40 °C.


The area of Oslo, along the south-eastern part of Norway, has a Baltic (slightly continental) climate: winters are cold, with temperatures a few degrees below zero degrees Celsius in the winter months, and frequent snowfall. During winter, mild air masses from the Atlantic ocean can sometimes penetrate even here, so that rain may fall instead of snow, while on other occasions, cold spells are possible, due to air masses from Russia, which may lower the temperature to -25 °C. The average temperature hovers around freezing in November and March, and is mild in the three summer months (June, July and August), with a maximum around 20/22 °C. Rainfall is moderate, but well distributed throughout the year, with a maximum between summer and autumn, and a minimum in spring. Like other cities of the country, Oslo is located in a fjord, more than 80 kilometres deep.
Oslo average temperatures
Oslo J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) -7 -7 -3 1 7 11 12 11 8 4 -2 -6
Max (°C) -2 -1 4 9 16 20 22 20 15 9 3 -1

The sea temperature in the Oslo fjord reaches 17 °C in July and August.
Sea temperature Oslo
Oslo J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sea (°C) 5 4 4 6 10 14 17 17 15 12 9 6

Finally, there are the northern islands.

The island of Jan Mayen, situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean, has a subarctic climate.

Further to the north, we find Svalbard, the northernmost part of Norway, which is colder in winter.

When to go

The best time to go to Norway is the summer, from June to August. The temperatures are very cool along the coast and in mountainous areas, and even cold along the northern coast. Windbreaker and raincoat can be a useful protection from the wind and the rain, especially along the coast and for those who take the ferry for a trip in the fjords. In inland areas, in Oslo and along the southern coast, the temperatures are generally mild, but a sweater for the evening is still recommended. Sometimes it can even be a bit hot during the day, while nights are still cool. In Lapland, the temperatures are a bit more variables, so it can get hot during the day, but also cold at night.
Rain and showers are quite common in Norway even in summer, especially along the western coast. June is a bit cooler than July and August, but it is (relatively) drier and sunnier, and has longer days, with the white nights in the south and the midnight sun in the north.
For skiing, the month of March is better than the winter months, because the temperature is less cold and the days are longer.
The northern islands experience definitely low temperatures even in summer, but at least they are above freezing, albeit slightly.
As mentioned, the ocean, which has a surface temperature of 5/6 °C in winter, remains cool during the summer, and reaches 15 °C in August at Bergen, and only 11 °C at Tromsø: it takes courage to swim. It goes a bit better in the Skagerrak strait and near Oslo, where the water temperature reaches 17 °C in July and August.

What to pack

In winter: for Oslo, as well as inland and northern areas: very warm clothes, synthetic thermal long underwear, fleece, down jacket, hat, gloves, scarf. For the west coast: sweater, down jacket, hat, raincoat or umbrella.
In summer: spring/autumn clothes, being ready to add or remove the outer layer, t-shirt, but also long pants, sweatshirt or sweater; jacket, raincoat or umbrella.
For the northern islands: warm clothing, down jacket, hat, gloves, windbreaker, raincoat.

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See also:
Jan Mayen

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