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Northern Europe Weather Overview


Scandinavia lies in Europe’s most northern realms. Geographically consisting of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, the region has vastly different weather conditions across the landmass- dependant on proximity to the ocean or sea, the Arctic Circle or mountain ranges.

Obviously, the further north you head toward the Arctic Circle, the colder conditions will get- winters become blistering, snow and frost becomes frequent and the scenery is predominately icy. In the very north, where the Norway curves around to hug its Nordic neighbours, Sweden and Finland, the conditions can be harsh. There is darkness throughout the entire day in the height of winter and continuous day light in the midst of summer.

Bodø, a town in the very north of Norway, is referred to as the Land of the Midnight Sun, this is the sun does not fully set for one month during the midst of summer. Here, winter sees and average temperature of -2 degrees Celsius, and the summer months see average temps of 12 degrees.

The west coast of Scandinavia is home to Norway’s coastal region, the main towns being Bodø, Trondheim, Bergen and Stavanger (among others.) The conditions become more extreme as you head north however the coast as a whole sees milder winter conditions comparative to inland Scandinavia, solely because the coast is moderated by the warm Atlantic waters of the Gulf Stream which prevents the waters from freezing over completely.

When in Scandinavia, particularly when in the far north one of the things that with strike you the most is the variable hours of daylight. In the north of Norway and Scandinavia, there is no complete darkness from May 20 to July 20. At winter solstice, the sun rises at 10:00AM, where it stays very low above the horizon, and sets again just after lunch at 2:30PM.

Bodø lies in the very North of Norway, just north of the Arctic Circle upon the Norwegian Sea. In the Land of the Midnight Sun the sun does not fully set from June 2 until July 10. Here during the summer, the sun shines upon the Arctic Ocean even in the depths of the night. On the flipside, from December until early January there is no visible sun in the city even in the middle of the day- this is actually due partly to the mountains that lie just south of Bodø which block sunlight to the city.

Bodø also sits in a position where it is just 30km west of the worlds strongest tidal current, Saltstraumen, which sees water speeds reaching 20 knots (about 37 km/h). In this area you can often find strong whirlpools which occurs as 400 million cubic meters of seawater forces its way through a 3 km long and 150 m wide strait every six hours.

Bodø is also one of Norway's most windy cities. Located on an unsheltered peninsula in the Norwegian Sea, the wine means that there is little snow cover throughout winter despite the fact the city is definitely cold enough to support snow. Average temperature for January is -2.2 °C, while July average is 12.5 °C. Due to its proximity to the warming Gulf Stream, Bodo doesn’t see the major temperature extremes that other parts of Norway see, for example the coldest month on record was February 1966 with a mean of -8.9 °C, and the warmest was July 1937 with a mean of 17.1 °C.

Trondheim

As you head further south down the coast you will reach Trondheim, lying on the central coast of Norway. During summer solstice in Trondheim the sun rises at the bizarre hour of 03:00AM and does not sets at 11:40pm at night. Even upon setting it stays just below the horizon. Trondheim’s weather conditions can be characterized as maritime, due to its position where the river Nidelva meets Trondheimsfjorden the city is mostly sheltered from the windy conditions that parts of northern Norway see.

Summer in this area sees average daily highs of 17 to 18 degrees and minimums of 8 to 10 degrees, which July generally being the warmest month. Throughout summer there are generally about 30 odd days with temperatures in excess of 20 degrees, but on average the mercury will sit below 20 degrees.

Winters can get quite chilly, there are, on average, 22 days throughout winter which record a minimum temperature of -10 °C or colder. In winter Trondheim experiences moderate snowfall, with this generally falling from November to March. There are on average 14 days of snowfall in excess of 25 cm snow cover during this period.

Bergen

Heading further down the coast you will reach the city of Bergen, which has been nicknamed ‘The City of Rain.’ Due to its location on the coast and nestled amongst mountains the city experiences a notoriously high rainfall, the high mountains mean that it is difficult for the clouds to leave the area. In fact, rain fell on 85 consecutive days during the period between October 29, 2006 and January 21, 2007. The high rainfall has been used as a marketing ploy for the city, in fact gimmick umbrella vending machines were operating in the city for a short period of time under it was realized that these weren’t proving to be particularly successful!

(see average rainfall table for Bergen)

Oslo

When you head east around the southern coast of Norway, and into the Skagerrak strait you will reach the country’s capital city of Oslo. Oslo lies within the largest area of lowland in the whole country. Because of this the winters are cold and the summers are longer and warmer than other parts of the country. The weather conditions are classified as ‘Humid Continental’ with periods that also resemble a ‘hemi boreal’ climate, which means it plays host to warm, but not hot summers. In saying this, Oslo is the hottest and driest area in Norway during the Summer months and is a very enjoyable summer holiday destination.

Every summer during June to Early September the city and surrounding area experiences heat waves which see temperature reach in excess of 30 degrees Celsius. The Oslofjord inlet has many public beaches which can be packed out in the summer months. The water temperature in the area generally lies around a comfortable 20 °C and can sometimes as reach highs of 23-24 °C.

While summers are enjoyable in Oslo, its lox lying location, far from the moderating waters of the Atlantic Gulf Stream and coastal winds winters can get bitterly cold with an abundance of rain. January sees Oslo at its coldest with a mean temperature of -4.3 °C. From January to February the mean daily temperature sits at a blistering -7 °C, and back in 1871 Oslo recorded a achingly cold low of -27.9 °C. Temperature begin to warm up slightly in March before reaching an average daily high of 16 degrees by May.

Global Warming in Norway

When looking at the historical temperatures of Norway and Scandinavia is will be noticed that (bar a few freak cold spells) the coldest temperatures in the region have been recorded decades, even centuries ago. In 2003 in Norway the annual mean temperature was 1.3 °C above the 1961-1990 average- a result of global warming.

Concern over global warming is great in Norway and Scandinavia as the countries lie north close to the Arctic region. As yearly temperatures are on the rise so too are tides (albeit by very minimal amounts). The concern is that as the ice melts near poles the sea level is rising, a problem which has already been noted by coastal communities which

have experienced flooding in past years. However, as a lot of the Norwegian Coast is steeply sloping the concerns are not grave. The problem could be more serious for areas which are low lying such as the alluvial fans near the mouths of fjords and the flat lowlands in Jaeren, south of Stavanger and in and around Norway’s Capital city of Oslo.

Temperatures have tended to be warmer in recent years. In 2007 it was noted that the Trøndelag area has seen average temperatures increase by almost 2 °C over the last 25 years.

The gases that contribute most to the greenhouse effect/ global warming are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorine compounds. In

Norway greenhouse gas emissions rose by around 8 percent from 1990 to 2006 so as a result Norway has committed itself to limit its emissions in 2008 - 2012 to maximum 1 per cent above the 1990 level in an attempt to do its part of slowing down or potentially preventing global warming.

Sweden and Finland

Sharing the 2,542 km land border with Norway are Sweden and Finland. Inland Norway and Sweden have very similar climates; however the factor that prevents them from being exactly the same is the presence of the Kjolen mountain range along the border with Norway..The mountains have the affect of sheltering Sweden from the milder and wetter Atlantic winds that Norway is subject to. As a result winters are slightly more extreme that what Norway experiences.

Basically, the south of the two countries experience a northern temperate climate. They are still in close enough proximity to be influenced by the warming Gulf Stream, which explains the unusually warm conditions that are out of character for such countries in such northerly latitude.

The south of Sweden is home to low lying plains and a number of lakes. The winters here are much short than in the north, and rainfall is predominately in the summer months as in the winter months precipitation falls in the form of snow. This is the same for the southern parts of Finland as well which sees the low playing plains play host to the country’s capital city of Helsinki.

Helsinki is in fact Europes coldest capital city, and sees the highest number of days with recorded snowfall- averaging 101 days per year.

The west coast of Sweden, bordering the Baltic Sea is much milder than the east coast. For the reasons that it lies closer to the influence of the Atlantic and also as this part of the Baltic Sea doesn’t freeze over whereas the East Coast lies upon waters which freeze over partially, or sometimes completely.

Stockholm

There is also higher snow fall on the east coast, with Stockholm average 60 snow days per year. Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, sees wide range of conditions across the year. It lies in a position where it is moderated by the influences of the Gulf Stream but also affected by the colder conditions typical of the east coast of Sweden. July typically sees an average high of 22 degrees and a low of 14 degrees, which January and February each see average maximums only reaching -1 degrees and average low falling to a chilly – 5 degrees. The record low in Stockholm saw the Swedes enduring an aching -28 degree day, and the hottest day ever in the city saw the Mercury top 35 degrees! You can see that the city experiences an interesting array of conditions.

Northern Sweden/Finland

The north west of Sweden sees you entering the Kjolen mountain ranges where there are plateaus of moderate to high elevation. The region has severe long winters which increase in extremity as you increased is elevation.

As you head further north conditions in Sweden and Finland become more extreme and the weather conditions are characterized by a ‘sub arctic’ climate. 25% of Finland lies north of the Arctic Circle so as a result during the winter, northern Finland experiences no sun for 51 consecutive days!

On the flipside, like Norway the area experiences the ‘midnight sun’ phenomenon where for 73 days of the year the sun doesn’t set completely and the areas basks in a midnight sun as the sun hovers on the horizon.

In the Province of Lapland in northern Finland there is snow cover from mid October right through until May. If visiting during this time it is important to bring sufficient warm clothes and necessary snow gear as you run the risk of frostbite if you go without. Interestingly, in the summer months the region is home to swarms of mosquitoes which can prove extremely uncomfortable at times.

Lying between the coasts of Sweden and Finland is the Gulf of Bothinia, which in the winter time can freeze over completely leaving ice breakers to plough through so that ships can reach the eastern ports of Sweden and Western ports of Finland.

Denmark

The southern most of the Nordic countries is Denmark, home to the ‘happiest people in the World.’ Denmark is a low lying country with a temperate climate, winters are not overly cold and summers are relatively cool. In the height of summer the average temperature sits at 15 degrees and winter sees an average of 0 degrees Celcius.

The country’s capital, Copenhagen, has been voted the ‘3rd most livable city in the world’ by a European magazine and sees mild conditions year round. Summer in Copenhagen sees the city witness average maximums of a pleasant 19 to 22 degrees, and winter sees average minimum temperatures of -3 degrees and 1 degrees in February and December respectively, maximums of about 2 degrees.

Denmark, like other Scandinavian countries, is affected by the varying sunlight that is typical of regions in northern latitudes, however it doesn’t see the light and dark extremes that parts of Northern Finland, Sweden and Norway see. During middle of winter the sun will rise at 9.30AM and set again come 4.30PM, and the height of summer sees the sun rising at 3.30AM and setting again at 10PM.

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