Due to the country's extent and geographic conditions, there are great climatic variations in Norway. The prevailing westerly winds reach further north in Norway than anywhere else in Europe. The moisture they carry from the sea gives precipitation in abundance. Their mildness is due to the North Atlantic Current, usually called the "Gulf Stream".
The coastal climate shows little variation in mean temperature during the year. Summers are somewhat cool due to much rain and cloudiness, and winters are remarkably mild, with mean January temperatures from about 2°C in the southwest and west to 6°C in the north - in fact the same as in Oslo.
In more continental interior areas, the summers are warmer and sunnier, and the winters colder, with snow prevailing for several months. Temperatures may drop well below -30°C with an absolute record of -51.4°C measured in inner Finnmark. The mountains in south Norway divide west and east Norway and stop most of the moisture from the sea. Therefore, summer in the interior is often quite dry.
On average, the climate of mainland Norway is much better than would be expected, given latitudes from 58°N near Kristiansand to 71°N at North Cape. The mean annual temperature in Lofoten is a full 25°C higher than normal for this latitude - the highest positive anomaly in the world. Along the coast, broad-leaved deciduous trees thrive as far north as 70° - compared to the western coast of the Atlantic, where forest is not found further north than 54°. Polar bears strolling in the streets are pure mythology.
The only polar bears in mainland Norway are the stuffed ones occasionally seen - and photographed - outside hotels and stores.
However, polar bears are common on Svalbard, an Arctic island belonging to Norway. Even there, mild oceans currents contribute to a surprisingly mild climate, but the summers are short and cool, and trees do not grow.
King Harald V of Norway.
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