Yesterday was actually sunny in Oslo, a true rarity in the wintertime. A fairly regular discussion between my Norwegian fiancée and me goes like this:
Me: I’m so sick of the darkness OR
Me: Holy shit, it was sunny today! It was fantastic!
Her: I just don’t understand why you/foreigners care so much about the weather. You shouldn’t let it dictate your mood.
Me: (Some rationalization about how growing up in Norway makes Norwegians used to the darkness in the winter and how the rest of the planet can’t handle it. Occasionally throw in references to Seasonal Affective Disorder.)
So anyway, yesterday she sent me a link to a Norwegian indie band, My Little Pony.
First of all, they are pretty great; you should check them out. Second, the song “The Sun Turns” proves that at least some Norwegians are also obsessed with the darkness and depressed by it too.
I feel vindicated.
(And February is about a hundred times better than December. It gets dark at a reasonable time now and gets lighter and lighter every day.)
I’ve been in the US visiting friends and family for the better part of a month, but I’ll be back to regular posting once I return to Norway. Until then, I’m enjoying the sunshine and warm weather of the US.
As I mentioned on Friday, there have been a ton of gray, overcast days in a row here. We finally saw a tiny bit of sunshine in the middle of the day on Saturday (literally, like 1 hour of sunshine), but for the most part gray, gray, gray. No snow, but lots of gray.
When I was visiting with my fiancee’s grandparents, they mentioned a term for this period that I hadn’t heard yet: kakelinna. According to the Norwegian wikipedia page, this concept describes a mild weather period in December, right before Christmas. In the old days, people believed that the mild weather was the result of all the traditional Christmas baking. That is, all the people using their ovens caused the weather to become warmer!
Like many beliefs from simpler times, this one has been abandoned in favor of modern science. The term lives on, however, to describe this period before “fullvinter” or full winter sets in. To Norwegian eyes the weather may have been mild, but as a southerner, it sure seemed full to me.
Short version: Not a fan.
For those loyal readers in the Northern Hemisphere, the days have been getting shorter since late June. In a few more days, this trend will reverse and the days will get longer. This event, known as the winter solstice, is much more pronounced the farther north you go in the world. After you cross the Arctic Circle, you get a period known as polar night, where the sun doesn’t come up for several days to several months depending upon how far north you go. Even as latitudes approach the Arctic Circle, however, days get dramatically shorter. Which of course brings me to Oslo.
The Arctic Circle passes through the middle of Norway (click on the map to the right to enlarge), meaning Oslo lies well south of it. Compared to most of the rest of the world, though, Oslo is very far north. In fact, the only major cities as far north as Oslo are Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, and Anchorage.
According to wunderground.com, the sun rose at 9:18 this morning and set at 3:07 this afternoon, for a total daylight of 5 hours and 48 minutes. In the past two weeks, I’ve noticed that we also haven’t gotten any sunlight at all. I don’t know whether this is typical for the few weeks right around the winter solstice or if we have just happened to have had really bad weather. I’ll try to remember to post about it next year and if any readers have an idea, post it in the comments.
Either way, the lack of sunlight and minimal daylight is pretty terrible. I have heard the opposite version of this during the summer is amazing though. If you’re curious, I took a few pictures (after the jump).
Posted in cultural differences
Tagged anchorage, arctic circle, daylight, helsinki, north, northern hemisphere, oslo, pictures, polar night, short days, st. petersburg, stockholm, sunlight, weather, winter solstice, wunderground.com
Last weekend, we changed the clocks back an hour to switch from daylight saving time to standard time. Earlier today, we changed the tires on our car to winter tires.
When my fiancee mentioned that we needed to do this, my first thought was, “What the hell are winter tires?” According to some tire website:
Winter tires will give you that extra traction, braking and handling you’ll need to confidently drive on snow and ice. They have specialized rubber compounds and tread designs to handle the cold temperatures. The tread remains flexible to prevent snow buildup and help with traction on ice.
I have to admit that did not exactly grow up in a cold weather climate, so I thought that perhaps that accounted for my ignorance. As I looked into the matter, however, I found out that they just aren’t that common in the United States. Even in areas like Colorado, usage is not universal.
So why do Norwegians use them religiously and Americans do not? I haven’t the slightest idea. If any readers have thoughts on the matter, please share them.
Actually, I’m not surprised. I mean, if you look at a map, Norway is waaaay up there*. What I am surprised about, however, is that even Norwegians care about the first snowfall. I had thought that in a place where snow was a regular occurrence and winter lasted half the year that it wouldn’t be a big deal. Wrong.
First snow of the season
It’s still only autumn, but temperatures fell in the mountains of southern Norway during the night and a low pressure system moved in. That left vast areas white.
I should add that the snow was not in Oslo, but in the part of Norway that I affectionately call the Antarctica of Norway.
*I would again like to thank the Gulf Stream for its hard work in making Norway warmer than it should be.