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Home* News and Stories → Spitsbergen is melting: early snow melt in Longyearbyen

Spitsbergen is melting: early snow melt in Longyearbyen

Snow melt – 4 weeks too early

Yes, this is how the last entry started as well. It is not great. Yes, there have always been mild air incursions with thawing temperatures and rain in Spitsbergen, even in mid-winter. The climate here is maritime.

But a whole week? In April, a month that tends to be quite stable otherwise? That is quite tough.

Wetterbericht Longyearbyen

The weather forecast for Longyearbyen from last Wednesday
(© Norwegian Meteorological Institute).

This is what the weather forecast looked like on Wednesday. Temperatures in red, above zero, and rain. This is how it was pretty much all of the week, from Monday to Friday. Today (Saturday), there is some mild frost again, at least.


The riverbed of Longyearelva had to be opened to prevent flooding of the road.

Wherever you look, it is sad. It is melting and flowing everywhere. There are ponds and lakes instead of white snow surfaces, smaller rivers have started to flow again, tundra areas are coming through the wet snow.

Snow melt in Bjørndalen

The Tundra is coming through the snow,
here in Bjørndalen in the beginning of this snow melt week.

They had to come with a digging machine to clear the river bed of Longyearelva, the river in Longyearbyen, from snow to prevent the road from being flooded. That is a normal procedure – but not in mid April (it was on Thursday).

The campsite is a lake. There was actually one lonely camper a week ago, but he left for some reason.

Lake on the camp site Longyearbyen

The campsite near Longyearbyen is a lake.

Easter weekend with question marks

The Easter weekend has begun, one of the main tourist seasons in Norway. Everybody is out and about, on tour somewhere, on holiday or visiting someone. Preferably something that has to do with a hut, snow and ski, alternatively a boat will also do.

A boat might actually be the better option than the kind of tour that you would expect in Spitsbergen at this time of year. White, wide snow landscapes, snow mobile trips to places far away or dog sledge tours and ski hikes somewhere around Longyearbyen.

But, alas, everything is grey and wet and water is flowing everywhere. The hotels are fully booked, planes come every day with easter tourists who have booked rooms and trips for stunning prices, looking forward to a taste of the real Arctic.

Right place, but wrong time.

Instead, mine 3, which is a museum mine now, is getting a lot of visitors. This is one of few places where you can book an interesting excursion right now regardless of the weather conditions, as long as the road is open. Not the kind of experience most would have thought of when they planned their trip, but certainly a very interesting experience.

Just for the sake of completeness: they are still running some snow mobile tours, obviously under rather marginal conditions.

Visitor mine Gruve 3

Visiting gruve 3, the visitor mine.

Today (Easter Saturday), there is some mild frost again, and temperatures are supposed to fall tomorrow. We will see if we get a bit more winter here again, or if the winter season is already over. That is a question many are considering in Longyearbyen now.

Midnight sun: next sunrise August

There is no “night” anymore in Longyearbyen. The last sunset was on Thursday, the midnight sun is shining since yesterday (Good Friday). The next sunset will be on 26 August – at 00.05 a.m., which means it is actually the 25 August, astronomically (because of daylight saving time, astronomical midnight is near 01 a.m.)

last modification: 2019-04-20 · copyright: Rolf Stange