It gets even colder

After the first days of the new year with temperatures down to -26 °C it got even colder.

4. January

In the morning temperature is between -26 and -27 °C and despite the weather forecast the sky is clear.

At lunch time I take another promenade along the coast. The sea ice Baltic Sea looks extremely cold due to the frost patterns that cover everything.

In the afternoon it gets colder and in the evening the temperature sinks below -30 °C for the first time. I go out and take a photo of our tree in our garden. It’s the very same tree under which Annika and I got married three and a half years ago – barefooted. Now it is covered in frost and Orion and Sirius are in the sky.

Luckily I have a lot of very warm clothes. To go out I only had to slip into my down suit and my Russian rubber boots, put a hat and woollen mittens on and I won’t freeze at all.

5. January

Twice I was awake and outdoors this night to enjoy the cold air and the starry sky. At 3:18 the thermometer shows -33.4 °C, the coldest temperature ever I experienced being at home!

These days a lot of places experience temperatures below -40 °C and less and many people (including us) have trouble with their cars or heating. Near Arjeplog a guy measured -51 °C with a laser thermometer the day before. That’s exceptionally cold even for Northern Sweden.

In the morning it was time for Annika and me to repeat a known experiment in the cold that we never tried out by ourselves: Throwing hot water in the air and seeing it freezing almost instantly into a cloud of ice dust. While my photos are ok-ish, Annika took gorgeous photos with my Nikon showing me doing this experiment. It works best with temperatures below -30 °C, which we had.

While I write this article in the night to the 6. January it is still cold, but “only” -22 °C. You get used to the cold after some days. And yes – I love these cold and crisp winter days a lot! The weekend will still be cold, then it will get warmer. Much warmer! On Tuesday, four days from now, it may be 40 degrees warmer than yesterday morning with day temperatures round +6 °C!

 

 

From the shadow into the sun

It has snowed quite a bit in Tromsø the last days and the snow depth measured this morning was 50 cm. The weather was fair and so there was no reason for me not to start the back country skiing season today.

I take the car to the parking at the Finnvikdalen on the island Kvaløya, where I started some other day trip ski tours the last years. I arrive at nine o’clock and am first. I change boots and jackets, put on gloves, mount the skis and off I go. The snow is fresh and fluffy and I guess that I won’t see my skis today a lot when I don’t follow another track.

First my skis sink 10–20 cm into the snow, later it will be more like 20–40. When I approach an old ski track covered in snow I decide to follow it. Where it will bring me? I’ll see.

At the beginning the track winds through the sparse birch forests. Everything looks quite grey and dull in the dim twilight.

When I however look back I see the first colour in the sky: A thin red cloud.

Twenty minutes later the southeastern sky is filled with the colours of sunrise. Which is no surprise, because it is actually sunrise. Somewhere far away behind the mountains of the mainland.

I continue following the old track. Looks like someone dragged a pulka behind. On one of the hills I spot a cabin. It is Stillvannsbua, a hut open for everyone and a popular tour destination.

The track passes the cabin and so do I.  Shortly after I meet a guy with a pulka. Probably he tented somewhere around. Was it him making this track? Probably, because soon it ends and I continue on areas of loose, untouched snow. Exhausting but beautiful.

On a lot of places the snow under my skis reacts with a loud, muffled noise and the snow sinks down a centimetre or two. The noise spreads in all directions for one or two seconds, a clear sign that the snow is quite unstable. But I’m in the midst of a valley– no avalanche risk here. When I reach the end of a valley I do not dare to proceed to steeper terrain but turn back. I am exhausted anyhow.

On my way back I still cannot see the sun. It is too low to be visible from here. The sky however is even more colourful and then it even starts to snow a bit. Snow and sun – one of my favourite weathers.

Some higher mountains are already sunlit …

And then there it is – the sun! It just appeared from behind a mountain.

All of a sudden the snow is not a featureless white but you can see every feature of the surface. The snowy land has got its colours back.

Everything that is lit by the low sun now shines in the most beautiful warm colours and I enjoy every moment of it. It is only nine other days, then the sun won’t rise again in Tromsø before 16 January. Polar night.

Now I’m not alone any more. A lot of skiers come towards me, many of them with a dog that pulls the skier. Three hours after I have started the tour I arrive at the parking again. The tour was short – just 7½ km – but the main thing was achieved: having been out in the wonderful nature that surrounds Tromsø.

The first winter day

This week it has become gradually colder. You could see it on the mountains, where the snow line dropped lower and lower. More and more the rain became slush and wet snow and yesterday evening it had become so cold, that the snow didn’t melt away immediately. This morning I had to remove some snow from my car before I could make a car trip.

I took the car to the island Kvaløya where it often is a bit colder than directly in Tromsø. The conditions were quite wintry although not all trees seemed ready for that.

Soon I arrived at the lake Finnvikvatnet where I parked the car. No ice on the lake yet so both the huge mountains and the tiny islets were reflected from the calm water surface.

This lakes lies on 230 metres and here the snow was much deeper, perhaps between 10 and 20 cm. Temperature was -2°C. Some flowers peeked out, while others probably were buried completely in the snow.

I was unsure how far I would come but packed my backpack with camera, water, chocolate and a warm jacket and started walking through the snow. I was the first one today and the snow was untouched beside of some animal tracks.

I spotted a pile of stones on a small mountain summit nearby. Maybe I could hike there? Well, let’s try – and make some photos on my way.

It was an interesting hike, because nothing is frozen yet. I was glad to have chosen rubber boots, otherwise I would have got very wet feet. Since I could not find the way under the snow I decided to choose a quite direct way up. That took a while, because it was steeper than expected and sometimes it was more like crawling through knee deep snow than hiking. But I arrived at the summit where I had a view on the higher mountains around and the sea in the west.

Now the terrain was flatter. Time to take some more photos.

A ruin caught my eye. I went there and tried to make photos but could not find a perspective I liked. But I had another option: I had my drone with me. So I could not only take a photo from a higher perspective but also one looking straight down and even one from within without touching the snow drift inside. A practical tool that I still have to become more familiar with.

Time to descend. This time I checked the map in my mobile phone and found the hiking trail. Much easier! In summer this is an easy hike for families.

The lower parts in the west are wooded and many trees still have colourful leaves. But above them the mountains are snowy although you can see, that the snow cover is not very deep yet.

That tour was not very long but I got my very first winter day and the first snow since 27 May. Yay!

Some photos from my short car trip back:

I want to thank my colleague D from work. It was him who offered himself on changing my tyres. Therefore I have studded winter tyres on my car since yesterday afternoon. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do this tour. Thank you, D. !

1 October 2023

Looks, like October flips the switch. While the last five days were pretty warm for the season with max temperatures above 10 °C the temperature dropped from 9 °C to 4 3 °C today and the gusty wind blew a lot of leaves from the colourful trees.

When the weather forecast is correct for next week some of the precipitation will come as snow and night temperatures might drop below zero. When it is autumn in Tromsø winter is already knocking on the door.

Autumn tour to the glacier Steindalsbreen

After being abroad in Germany, “home home” in Sweden and on vacation in the Netherlands for almost a month I have returned to Tromsø, my “work home” one week ago. Time to work again for the Norwegian Polar Institute but not only that …

Some days ago my colleague Marika asked me if we should go out for a hike to the glacier Steindalsbreen in the weekend. I knew the place from hearsay but never have been there. I gladly accepted – I like hiking with good company. Yesterday on Sunday we met at 7 o’clock and off we went. First by car.

Car trip

Steindalen is on the Lyngen peninsula and round about 100 km away. According to Google it takes 100 minutes but we stopped several times, either to take pictures of the reflections in the fjord or the curious fox beside the road.

Through the forest

After the car was parked we started our tourat 9:25. The birch and alder trees were clad in autumnal colours. The path led westwards through the forest along a small mountain river.

To the cabin

After the path going up and down it led nearer to the river. We passed some moraines – witnessed from the ice age – and spotted a waterfall falling vertically down from a mountain. Then the cabin Steindalshytte came into view. There is a wooden bridge to cross one of the rivers.

Through the U-shaped valley

We followed an inflow of the stream and soon the valley opened more and more. And there it was – still in the distance – the glacier!

It gets rocky

The path went further up and the ground started go get rockier and we left the delta like wetlands behind. But still there were many crouching plants present, many of them in the brightest autumnal colours.

Approaching the glacier

A hill and the glacier Steindalsbreen came in full view, another hill also the glacial lake in the front. Quite depressing were the signs that marked the retreat of the glacier. Oh – so many hundred metres in so few years ;-(

Nearer and nearer …

The first photos Marika and I took from the edge of the glacial lake. Then we followed a path to the right that brought us nearer to the ice. Here we walked on gravel covered ice. I found a hole, perhaps 80 cm in diameter and 150 cm deep.

On the mud flats

As usual I hiked with rubber boots and so I could walk on the sandy mudflats right in front of the glacier. Oh, so beautiful the turquoise blocks of ice!

Mud, ice, and water

I also took some photos of the ground. Was it sand? Hard mud? Ice? Sometimes probably all the three.

Then I looked back to the lake. Hard to imagine that we hiked through autumnal forests some hours ago. This landscape looks eternal somehow although it is the opposite: very fragile and threatened by the global warming.

Heading back

After a meal break by a large rock it was time to head back. The times of midnight sun and bright nights are over and at 7 o’clock in the evening it would be dark. Just some more photos from our way back.

After round eight hours we were back at my car. What I great tour!

Takk for turen, Marika!

Travelling from ice to summer

This article is part of the series “2023-06: Arctic Ocean cruise KPH”.

This photo was taken three days ago:

These photos were taken three hours ago:

Quite a contrast, isn’t it?

18 June (four days ago)

I stand on the sea ice for the last time as part of the polar research expedition with the ice breaker Kronprins Haakon. It has become quite foggy and we will close the ice station earlier due to bad visibility. If you cannot spot the polar bears it is not safe and we had quite a few of them the last two weeks.

19 June (three days ago)

Today we stop the ship several times for the usual CTD casts to get the salinity and temperature of the sea water in different depths. For science it is always interesting to get comparable measurements. One way is to do a transect, a series of the same type of measurements in different locations, mostly in a line. Today we do CTD casts at 2° W, 1° W, 0°, 1° E, and 2 °E. So today we have crossed the Prime Meridian.

For doing CTD casts the ship must stand still. At 1° E I use this to fly my private drone from the helicopter deck for the first picture above. (Memo to myself: do not fly a drone in fog, it is hard to land.)

20 June (two days ago)

After four days of fog it finally clears up in the evening. And for the first time in 18 days we can see land again, the long and narrow island Prins Karls Forland.

We can get a lot of information about what’s going on on the TV. On channel 9 there is OLEX, a navigation system. I see, that Helmer Hanssen, another research vessel owned by the University of Tromsø is nearby. The ships are getting closer and closer and I go up to the helicopter deck to take some photos. There’s a reason for the ships to meet. Malin, a researcher in the field of arctic and marine biology is transferred from our ship to Helmer Hanssen by boat. She will join another cruise.

21 June (yesterday)

In the morning we have approached Adventfjorden, where the main city Longyearbyen is located. Due to the touristic cruise ships occupying all dock places we will stop in the open water. From there we are transferred to land by boat as well. I’m in the first boat because I want to meet people in Longyearbyen at Forskningsparken. There UNIS, the university of Svalbard is located and a department of the Norwegian Polar Institute, too.

We get a car transport there and I meet Vegard, that helped me with drone flying and Luke, that I have worked with quite a bit. Luke and I have even time to get some outdoor lunch in the summery town. It’s sunny and more than 10 °C. (Too warm for me.) He mentions that it got quite green in Longyearbyen. And I spot the first flowers.

At the airport there are long queues everywhere. It is not build for large groups of slightly disorientated tourists. But we arrived early. Shortly after half past two we lift off. I glue myself to the window to see the fjords, the mountain chains and the glaciers of Svalbard passing by.

Amidst between Svalbard and Tromsø I manage to spot the arctic island Bjørnøya in the haze. For the first time in my life! The photo is heavily processed to make Bjørnøya visible.

And then we land in Tromsø where the vegetation just has exploded in my three weeks of absence. Everything is green and there are flowers everywhere. I am lucky and get a lift home. (Thank you, Tore!)

22 June (today)

I drop by in the office to meet my colleagues. Good to see them in real life. We talk about the cruise and many other things. But after work I take a bath in the sea. So refreshing when it is summer and 25 °C! That’s more than twenty degrees warmer than four days ago when I navigated my small drone to take a photo of Kronprins Haakon in the sea ice somewhere between Greenland and Svalbard.

23 June (tomorrow)

Tromsø is my work home, but Obbola in Sweden is my home home. Tomorrow I will travel there. If everything goes well it “only” takes 18 hours. And then I finally will be united with my wife Annika again in our cosy house by the Baltic Sea.

Snowy intermezzo

Last week it felt like spring is finally coming. Flowers were blooming in the forest, the snow had melted away rapidly and even the birch trees finally had become green.

Since then it had been raining a lot. Yesterday it got quite cold and the rain turned into wet snow.

There were snow showers the whole night and this morning, too with temperatures round 0–1 °C. Is this what spring looks like? And we’re talking about the end of May.

Alas it was only a short intermezzo and while the mountains still look whiter than before snow has melted away throughout the day.

 

 

Tussilago in Tromsø 2023

Yesterday I wrote I would write about Tussilago in Tromsø as soon as i see it. This morning I saw the typical yellow blossoms on my way to work. First a dozen, then a hundred, then a thousand. As early bloomers they apparently don’t have a problem with snow.

Addendum

Even some steps away from my doorstep almost hidden by the snow I found Tussilago.

Winterly Kvaløya

What a misjudgement! Since it was warm the last weeks I didn’t expect so much winter in Tromsø and around. It was a mistake not to take skis or/and snowshoes with me, when I visited the neighboring island Kvaløya today. And here everything was still snowy. Very snowy. So for example the tombstones on the graveyard in Henrikvik. Or a fence nearby, where only the edge looked out of the snow.

How many tombstone there are around? Hard to say. Some of the larger ones were quite visible while other parts of the graveyard were just a white sheet of snow. I’ll have to check in summer.

Although the temperatures were sub-zero the road by the coast was wet and free of snow. This changed when I turned into the road to Sommerøya, the summer island. Although the road is just 150 meters above sea level it was snow covered. During the snow showers it was hard to see the roadside and I slowed down a lot for every car that came my way.

Some other cars parked at the different parking places. Two skiers just started a tour. But I could hardly spot any fresh ski tracks and even some of the avalanche transceiver test station were quite snowed in. No wonder because parts of the lake Kattfjordvatnet are already open and the ice is not safe anymore.

On the other side of the water: a group of trees in the fresh, white snow. Not a single ski track could be seen. At least here ski season seems to be over.

On the other side walking through the snow is not the best idea neither, especially when there are deep, snow-covered ditches …