Despite its location and name, travelers on a tour of Iceland might be surprised to find that the island has a fairly temperate climate. Both air and ocean currents affect the weather patterns. A polar wind and the East Greenland Current carry Arctic temperatures and drift ice to the northeast shores, while a tropical air current and the North Atlantic Current help to moderate the weather in the southwestern portion of the country.
Almost any season is a good time to plan an Iceland tour. Temperatures vary relatively little from summer to winter. In Reykjavik, the average July temperature is a cool 51° F, while the average January temperature is an only slightly chillier 31° F. Snow falls on the landscape about 100 days each year in the northwest, while the southeast sees only 40 days of snowfall. Some of the mountains receive more than 160 inches of precipitation in a year, though the average precipitation in the south remains around 80 inches. The winter months bring wild island gales, heavy fog, and long dark days, but in the fall and early winter the aurora borealis can often be seen brightening up the skies with vivid colors. Though the winters are dark, the summers bring long days of sunshine; southwest Iceland clocks nearly 1,300 hours of sun per year.