Norway extends for about 1,100 mi from south to north between 58° and 71°N and has an area of 324,000 sq km/125,000 sq mi. The northern part of the country, within the Arctic Circle, has continuous daylight at midsummer and Arctic twilight all day in winter. Norway has a long and very indented coastline on the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Arctic Ocean, with many steep-sided inlets or fiords. There are innumerable small islands offshore. Much of the interior is high mountain and plateau, rising over 1,500 m/5,000 ft. Except in the south around Oslo, the country is narrow from east to west. There is a long land border with Sweden on the east and, in the far north in Lapland, with Finland and Russia. The largest area of lowland is around Oslo and this is the driest and warmest part of the country in summer.
The interior highlands have an Arctic climate in winter with snow, strong winds, and severe frosts, but during fine spells in summer the daytime temperatures can rise quite high with long hours of sunshine. The weather and climate are similar to that of northern Sweden.
By contrast the coastal areas have comparatively mild conditions in winter, because the warm Atlantic water of the Gulf Stream reaches to the extreme north of Norway. This keeps the sea from freezing and maintains open harbours throughout the year. On occasions in winter strong cold winds blow down into the fiords from the snow-covered highlands.
The climate and weather of Norway are very much influenced by Atlantic weather disturbances so that the weather is changeable throughout the year. Gales, rain, and cloud are the dominant features of this coast and rainfall is frequent and heavy (see the table for Bergen). Towards the north, rainfall decreases but falls frequently, and snow is common at sea level in winter (see the table for Narvik). In the more extensive areas of lowland in the south the winters are colder with more frequent frost than on the Atlantic coast, but summers are warmer and drier (see the table for Oslo).
The Spitsbergen (Svalbard) archipelago of Norwegian territory is situated in the Arctic Ocean between 77° and 80°N. It has a severe Arctic type of climate. Winters are very cold and in the short summer snow scarcely melts at sea level. In the mountainous interior there are glaciers and permanent snowfields. The north coasts of the islands are permanently enclosed in pack ice. The islands have long been inhabited, formerly by whalers but now as a meteorological station. Coal mines are jointly worked by Norway and Russia. Winter conditions are severe and Arctic clothing is essential for survival outdoors. Similar conditions apply in winter in northern and central Norway at higher levels.
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