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Geography, Weather, & Wildlife of Norway

Geography

Norwegian Geography - Rocky coastline
Rocky coastline

Norway is a long skinny country that runs north and south, along which run mountains. The crashing North Atlantic Ocean and glaciers of the past have created a rugged coastline filled with dramatic mountains and rocks jutting out of the ocean at every turn. Between these many rocky cliffs are fjords reaching inland. Among the most famous of these fjords are Sognefjord and Geirangerfjord.

The coastline, as well as the inland mountains, are very rugged due to numerous glaciers that have dug into the rocks, many of which still exist today. These mountains run across the country from the western coast all the way to the Swedish border in the east. Off much of the western coast there are also numerous islands that resemble the rugged mountains forming the shores. Despite the mountainous landscape, the highest point in the country is Galdhopiggen, which stands at only 8,100 feet (2,450 meters).

Norwegian Geography - Houses along an arm of the Geirangerfjord
Houses near the Geirangerfjord

Throughout this landscape the mountains are dotted with forests, many of which consist of evergreen trees, as well as small alpine lakes. However, much of the country stands at elevations above the tree line, so these areas are fairly barren.

Also running the length of the country, generally from east to west, are numerous rivers flowing into the North Atlantic Ocean. Many of these rivers and streams have dramatic segments as they fall over rocky cliffs forming waterfalls. There are also hundreds of streams or rivers that flow south into the North Sea as this southern region tends to be much flatter than most of the western and northern coasts.

Norwegian Geography - Rocks along the coast
Rocks along the coast

Unfortunately, these mountains and the rocky soil make the land difficult to cultivate. There are few places that are ideal for crop growth, but of those areas, most are at low- to mid-level elevation and tend to be close to lakes as water and soils tend to flow into these low lands. There are also some places close to the waters, such as Oslo that were once beneath the water's surface and hence have fertile soils. Because of the inability to create sustainable agriculture in many parts of the country (especially due to the short growing season), most of the people live at lower elevation along the coasts, most commonly in the south on both the eastern and western coasts.

Weather

Norwegian Geography - Rainy Day in the Geirangerfjord
Rainy Day in the Geirangerfjord

Norway is a long country stretching north and south with high mountains, creating a number of weather variations. The northern part of the country reaches into the Arctic Circle, while the western and southern parts of the country border the warm Atlantic Ocean and are the welcoming recipients of the North Atlantic Gulf Stream. The mountains also tend to protect some areas from the precipitation and winds, while in other places the mountains welcome these, creating numerous different environments.

The summers have long days and in the Arctic Circle there is 24 hours of daylight during the year's longest days. Even in the south, including Oslo, there are nearly 19-20 hour of light each day from June to mid-July. Temperatures also warm up in the summer months, but rarely get too hot. Both Oslo and Bergen boast daily highs of about 66° F (19° C) during the summers. During this time of year most the country is also relatively dry, although the rains slightly pick up in July and August and the western coast can get rain any time of year. Oslo and the southeastern part of the country tend to receive most of their rain in the summer and fall (autumn), which is in contrast to that of the western coast.

Winters in the Arctic Circle can experience 24 hours of darkness each day and here, as well as in the mountains along the border with Sweden, snow is common and regular. Additionally, most of the precipitation in these areas arrives in the fall (autumn) and winter making them ideal for winter sports. Although temperatures can plummet to well below freezing (32° F (0° C) for months at a time inland during these winter months, the coasts tend to remain above freezing if the Atlantic Ocean currents are favorable, as they usually are. Bergen averages daily lows of about 32° F (0° C) during the winter while Oslo, to the east, has an average of about 28° F (-2° C), with days a bit warmer and nights a bit cooler during these months.

The fall (autumn) tends to be the rainiest time of year throughout the country (outside Oslo and the southeast) as temperatures begin to drop. The spring comes at differing times depending on the latitude and ocean currents, but tends to warm up fairly quickly as the days get longer. However, during this time there can be great temperature differences in the north and south and night time and day time temperatures can also vary drastically.

Wildlife

Norwegian Wildlife - Reindeer
Reindeer

Due to the numerous ecological zones created by the vast differences in geography, the changing latitude, and the weather, there are thousands of animals that call Norway home. This includes numerous animals both on shore as well as just off the coast in the surrounding waters.

Norway is home to numerous mammals, both large and small. On land, many of the most common animals are also mammals including reindeer (known as caribou in North America), moose (or elk), otters, foxes, beavers, mink (although today most of the mink are American mink), red squirrels, and wolverines. The polar beer and brown bear can also be found in the country as can the musk ox, a more recent import. Off the coasts there are numerous other mammals, most commonly some species of whales.

Other animals found in the surrounding seas include thousands of fish, birds, and other sea life. The sea life isn't limited to the oceans though. In addition to the salt water fish in the oceans, there are numerous fresh water fish in the country's lakes and rivers. Although the fresh water fish species are limited, the salt water fish dominate the coasts as herring, lobster, and salmon are all common, as are dozens of others.

Norwegian Wildlife - Puffin
Puffin

Birds are less common in Norway due to their climate, but there are a number of seasonal migrating birds along with some game birds. Perhaps the most famous of these birds is the puffin, but many other birds call the country home, including the white-throated dipper, buzzards, swans, smews, ravens, and grouse, among others.

There are very few amphibians and reptiles in Norway, but they do exist. A couple snakes are perhaps the most common, although even they are rare.

When it comes to plant like, Norway is somewhat limited in scope. Due to the northern climate and the poor soils there is a limited number of plants in Norway. In fact nearly a third of the country is above the tree line so in these areas the plant life is limited to shrubs, flowers, and other small plants. Trees, including birch trees, pine trees, aspens, willows, and numerous others are common in Norway. Grasses and small flowers can also be commonly found. Fruits and vegetables are uncommon; although many root vegetables have been introduced and are popular, including the potato.

This page was last updated: August, 2013