Beached Jewels
The prerequisite of having spectacular sky colors at dusk or dawn reflecting on the beach can be difficult to obtain during Icelandic winters. In this case the clear skies were associated with a stationary low pressure system to the northeast of Iceland. The anticlockwise rotation of a cyclone leads to northward advection of warm and moist air to the east of the cyclonic center. The uplifted air mass is cloudy and associated with rainy and foul weather. In contrast, the western part of the cyclone is dominated by dry and cool air flowing south. Such a descending air mass is frequently associated with clear skies embedded with shallow patches of clouds. In this case, the Vatnajökull ice cap is blocking this southward airstream. This causes the air to rise on the northern slopes of Vatnajökull leading to intense and enduring snowfall. Hence, the southern slopes of Vatnajökull are dominated by dry air masses descending from the ice cap. This leads to lee effects that produce very clear skies seaward of the glacier. At a given distance out on the sea this mountain effect vanishes resulting in shallow clouds at the horizon. As a result of this spectacular lighting situation these small icebergs resemble beached jewels on the black volcanic sand of Jökulsárlón.
January 2011
Canon 5D MkII, Canon L 16-35 mm, f/16, 5 sec, ISO 200, Lee GND, tripod