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  • Author or Editor: Héðinn Valdimarsson x
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Edward Hanna, Trausti Jónsson, Jon Ólafsson, and Hedinn Valdimarsson


A new comprehensive record of long-term Icelandic sea surface temperature measurements, which have been updated and filled in with reference to air temperature records, is presented. The new SST series reveal important features of the variability of climate in Iceland and the northern North Atlantic. This study documents site histories and possible resulting inconsistencies and biases, for example, changes in observing sites and instruments.

A new 119-yr continuous time series for north Iceland SST is presented, which should prove particularly useful for investigating air–sea ice interactions around northern Iceland. As this is the only part of the country to be regularly engulfed by winter and/or spring sea ice, it is therefore highly sensitive to climatic change. The coastal series correlate well overall with independent Hadley Centre Sea Ice and SST dataset version 1 (HadISST1) series from the adjacent open ocean (mean r = 0.59), although correlations are generally higher in summer than winter and for south and east Iceland compared with the west and north. The seasonal temperature range is generally twice as large at the coastal sites because of differential effects of radiation, melting, mixing, and advection of warmer or colder air or water masses, as well as spatial resolution differences and smoothing in HadISST1.

The long-term climatological averages and graphs for the 10 SST stations and/or their composites reveal decadal variations and trends that are generally similar to Icelandic air temperature records: a cold late-nineteenth-century, rapid warming around the 1920s, an overall warm peak circa 1940, cooling until an “icy” period circa 1970, followed by warming. Regional differences between sites include relatively greater (lesser) long-term variations for the eastern and southern (western and northern) Icelandic coasts, suggesting greater variability and influence of ocean current advection in the southeast. Moreover, Vestmannaeyjar SST data reveal that the late-nineteenth-century cold period in the ocean was not confined to the cold currents off north and east Iceland but also affected the south coast markedly. The Stykkishólmur, Iceland, SST record is relatively noisy and shows very little decadal variation, which may largely be due to fjord ice in cold winters suppressing low temperatures. It is anticipated that researchers may find these Icelandic SST series of practical use as a historic measure of air–sea–climate interactions around Iceland.

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