Official name: Kingdom of Norway
Area: 324,220 square kilometers (125,182 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Galdhøpiggen (2,469 meters/8,100 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 1 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 1,752 kilometers (1,089 miles) from north-northeast to south-southwest, 430 kilometers (267 miles) from east-southeast to west-northwest
Land boundaries: 2,515 kilometers (1,562 miles) total boundary length; Finland 729 kilometers (453 miles); Sweden 1,619 (1,006 miles kilometers); Russia 167 kilometers (104 miles)
Coastline: 21,925 kilometers (13,594 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 7 kilometers (4 nautical miles)
Norway is located on the Scandinavian peninsula in northern Europe, west of Sweden and east of the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. The country also shares borders with Russia and Finland. Almost one-third of the country sits north of the Arctic Circle. With a total area of about 324,220 square kilometers (125,182 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of New Mexico. Norway is divided into nineteen counties.
Norway has claimed four island dependencies. Bouvet Island is located in the South Atlantic Ocean between Africa and Antarctica. Peter I Island is also located off the Antarctic coast. Jan Mayen Island is located in the Arctic Ocean northeast of Iceland. All three of these islands are uninhabited.
The Svalbard Archipelago, located north of Norway in the Arctic Ocean, is at the center of a maritime border dispute between Norway and Russia.
In addition to the four islands, Norway also has a territorial claim in Antarctica.
The warm waters of the Gulf Stream and prevailing westerly winds keep the climate of Norway mild, even though the country is so far north. Along the west and southwest coast, high temperatures average 3°C (38°F) in January and 19°C (66°F) in July. The climate is more extreme and temperature ranges are broader in Norway's interior. The arctic north is much colder than the south, but even here the Gulf Stream keeps temperatures relatively warm and the coast ice-free. Oslo, in the southern interior, has an average high temperature of 28°C (82°F) in July and 5°C (41°F) in January.
The coastal areas of the west receive almost year-round rainfall. Some areas average 330 centimeters (130 inches). Precipitation is not as great in the interior. Oslo, in the southern interior, averages 76 centimeters (30 inches) of precipitation a year.
Norway consists of five geographic regions. The West Country (Vestlandet) is an area carved by glaciers and features majestic fjords and the abrupt slope of the western Scandinavian Mountains toward the North Sea. Connected to the West Country by numerous valleys, the East Country (Ostlandet) contains rolling hills and valleys that contain some of the country's richest agricultural soil. The Trondheim (Trøndelag) Depression forms a natural boundary between the northern and southern halves of the country. It is a region of hills, valleys, and fjords north of the high mountain ranges. Farther to the north is North Norway (Nord Norge), which is marked by fjords, mountains, vast snowfields, and some of Europe's largest glaciers. In the far south is an area of agricultural lowlands known as South Country (Sorlandet).
Most of the western coast of Norway lies on the Norwegian Sea. Part of the southwest coastline borders the North Sea. Both seas are extensions of the Atlantic Ocean. The north-ernmost coast of the country borders the Barents Sea, an extension of the Arctic Ocean.
On the southernmost coast of Norway, the Skagerrak Strait separates the country from Denmark.
Most of the Norwegian coastline is cut with countless fjords, for which the country is most famous. High plateaus often surround these fjords, forming breathtaking natural harbors.
Except in the southwest and the far north, the Norwegian coast has a stretch of islands called the Skjaergard. Containing roughly fifty thousand islands, this island zone reaches its broadest width of over 60 kilometers (37 miles) at the southern approaches to the Trondheim Fjord. The outer islands, protruding from relatively shallow waters, rarely exceed 30 meters (100 feet) in height, while the inner islands may rise to 305 meters (1,000 feet). These islands are characterized by a series of rock terraces known as strandflats.
The Lofoten and Vesterålen Islands off the northwestern coast are the country's most extensive island chains. They are formed from glaciers that covered the tops of partially submerged ancient volcanic ranges. The larger islands of Hinnøya, Kvaløy, Senja, and Ringvassøy also lie off the northwest coast.
Scandinavia is the region of northwestern Europe that lies on the peninsula bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (in the form of the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea), the Baltic Sea, and the Gulf of Bothnia. Even though Norway and Sweden are the only two countries that lie directly on this peninsula, the countries of Denmark, Iceland, and Finland also are usually considered to be Scandinavian countries in a cultural context.
The Svalbard archipelago, a dependency that includes the Spitzbergen archipelago, North-East Island, Edge Island, and Barents Island, is located north of Norway in the Arctic Ocean. The island group covers an area of 62,700 square kilometers (24,208 square miles). Although ice sheets and permafrost blanket most of the islands, they are the sites of the northernmost permanent settlements in Europe.
Bouvet Island was claimed for Norway in 1927. It is located in the South Atlantic Ocean between Africa and Antarctica. It is uninhabited and is almost completely covered by ice. Additionally, Norway has claimed Peter I Island, off the Antarctic coast.
Except in the southernmost part of the country, Norway's coastline is extremely irregular. Deep fjords extend far into the interior of the country in many places. Glaciers carved these troughs into the interior plateau. The longest and deepest fjord is Sogne Fjord (Sognafjorden). It is approximately 204 kilometers (127 miles) long, with walls rising sharply from the coast to elevations of 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) in some places. Other major fjords in the south include Oslo Fjord, Hardanger Fjord, Bokn Fjord, and Romsdals Fjord. In the middle of the country, the Trondheim Fjord extends 126 kilometers (78 miles) into the interior. Arctic fjords such as Tana, Porsangen, and Varanger tend to be broader and somewhat shorter.
In the far north of Norway, on Magerøya Island, is North Cape (Nordkap). This is the northernmost point in all of Europe.
Glacial lakes abound in Norway. Nearly onetwelfth of the country is under fresh water. Lake Mjøsa, at 363 square kilometers (140 square miles) in area and 452 meters (1,982 feet) in depth, is by far the largest lake. Most of the other larger lakes are 122 meters (400 feet) above the sea; these elevated lakes perhaps were once heads of fjords that have since been sealed off from the ocean.
Norway has numerous glacier-fed rivers. Most are swift and turbulent, rushing through steep valleys and rocky gorges. The only navigable rivers are the Glåma and the Dramselva. The Glåma is the longest river in Scandinavia, at 563 kilometers (350 miles) long. It rises more than 610 meters (2,000 feet) above sea level at Aursunden Lake and flows south into the Skagerrak. Many lakes widen the stream, and the river is famous for its waterfalls. The Dramselva River rises in the central part of the country and also flows south, entering Oslo Fjord at Drammen. Other major rivers in the south are the Otra, Sira, and the two Lågen Rivers. The Reisa and the Tana Rivers are situated in the extreme north.
There are no desert regions in Norway.
The East Country contains rolling hills and valleys that support most of the agriculture of the country. Only 3 percent of Norway's land is considered arable, however, and there are no regions of permanent pasture. The Trondheim Depression forms a natural boundary between the northern and southern halves of the country.
Norwegian mountain ranges are roughly divided into three groups. In the north, the Kjølen range forms a natural barrier between Norway and Sweden and extends northward toward the border with Finland. Further south is the Dovrefjell chain, which abuts the Trondheim Depression in the south; together, the mountains and valleysplit the country into its northern and southern areas.
Norway's highest mountain range, the Langfjell, lies south of the Trondheim Depression and the Dovrefjell. This range, comprised of sharp peaks called fjells and high plateaus called vidder , runs southwest to northeast and divides the West and East countries. The Rondane Mountains and the Jotunheimen are part of this range. Galdhøpiggen, Scandinavia's highest mountain at 2,469 meters (8,100 feet), belongs to the Jotunheimen.
The Beerenberg volcano (2,277 meters/ 7,470 feet), the world's northernmost active volcano, created the uninhabited dependency of Jan Mayen Island in the Arctic Ocean northeast of Iceland. Jan Mayen has an area of 373 square kilometers (144 square miles). Beerenberg erupted most recentlyin 1970.
The movements of glaciers created most of the cave areas in Norway. Svarthammergrotta has the largest chamber of any cave in Norway. "Glacier Hall," as the chamber is called, has a width of 30 to 50 meters (98 to 164 feet), a height of 5 to 10 meters (16 to 33 feet), and a length of 200 meters (656 feet). Ice samples taken from the cave have been dated to approximately 1,200 A.D.
Glaciers of the Ice Age carved countless plateaus into the Norwegian landscape, some of them very large. The Norwegian Plateau includes the western and eastern vidders in the high mountains of the central region. Other major plateaus are the Finnmark Plateau in the far north and the Hardangervidda in the south. The Hardangervidda has an elevation of 1,830 meters (6,004 feet) and an area of 6,474 square kilometers (2,500 square miles), with steep sides scarred and grooved by waterfalls and valleys.
Known as the "land of the midnight sun," the far northern region of Norway has 24-hour daylight from May through July. Oslo and the rest of the southern region have summer daylight from about 4 A.M. to 11 P.M. Conversely, from November to the end of January, the sun never rises above the horizon in the north.
Most of the northern end of the Norwegian Plateau in the country's central region is covered by icecaps. The Jostedalsbreen glacier is found in this area. It is the largest glacier in Europe at 1,502 square kilometers (580 square miles) in area and possibly 457 meters (1,500 feet) thick. The Folgefonn glacier is also found here. The top of this glacier is over 1,524 meters (5,000 feet) above sea level.
Norway's northern extremes, including the Finnmark Plateau, are also heavily glaciated. Other large snowfields include Hallinskarvet in the Hardangervidda, Snohetta in the Dovre-fjell, Seiland near Hammerfest, and Oksfjordjokel near Kvanangen.
There are no significant man-made structures affecting the geography of Norway.
Blashfield, Jean F. Norway . New York: Children's Press, 2000.
Charbonneau, Claudette. The Land and People of Norway . New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Norway in Pictures . Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1992.
Vanberg, B. Of Norwegian Ways . New York: Harper & Row, 1984.
Zickgraf, Ralph. Norway . Broomall, PA: Chelsea House, 1999.
Visit Norway. http://www.visitnorway.com (accessed June 18, 2003).