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‘Winter that never arrived’ nears end for Nordic countries

Northern European countries known for skiing and other snowy pursuits are poised to record one of the warmest winters ever after weeks of unseasonably high temperatures.

'Winter that never arrived' nears end for Nordic countries
Flooded fields in Himmerland, Denmark, on February 26th. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

In Sweden's capital Stockholm, cherry trees bloomed in January as much of the country recorded temperatures six to seven degrees Celsius higher than normal since December.

“It is the warmest winter in recorded history in southern and central Sweden,” the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) said in a statement to AFP.

Sweden's neighbours Norway, Denmark and Finland have also seen high temperatures.

Some companies have practically given away ski suits, bonnets and other winter attire well before the season ends.

In Uppsala, about 70 kilometres north of Stockholm, this is the warmest winter since 1722, or nearly 300 years.

Across the border in Finland, more than half of the country recorded the mildest January ever. Temperatures were seven to eight degrees higher than average, the country's meteorological institute said.

Norway experienced its mildest winter since record keeping began in 1900. Temperatures exceeded the seasonal norm by 4.5 degrees.

The same goes for Denmark, the southernmost country in the region. Winter, which officially ended on the last day of February, saw temperatures that were five degrees above normal.

“If this winter remains etched in the collective memory, it will be as the winter which never arrived,” said Mikael Scharling, of the Danish Meteorological Institute.

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Unusual in places that are wild about winter sports, capitals like Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki saw little to no snow in January.

“We have just experienced the first Jan-Feb period on record without any measurable snow in Helsinki,” said Mika Rantanen, of the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

“I think that is quite extraordinary,” Rantanen said.

A figurehead in the campaign against climate change, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg has taken to Twitter to voice her concerns.

“Stockholm just experienced its warmest winter ever recorded (since measures began 1756),” Thunberg tweeted.

It has also been one of the wettest winters across northern Europe.

Seventy percent more precipitation than normal hit Norway, according to theNorwegian Meteorological Institute.

Sweden has also suffered.

“The worst flooding is in the southwest parts of Sweden, where a lot of farm land… is soaked in water,” said Ulf Wallin, spokesman for Sweden's agriculture federation LRF.

“For many farmers the autumn sowing of winter wheat has been destroyed,”Wallin said.

“The warm winter can leach the soil and we even have seen plants begin to bloom that we never seen so early before.”

If the situation improves, the LRF expects to see normal crop yields for 2020 but still lower than those in 2019.

In Denmark, floods today threaten nearly half a million buildings across the country and much farmland but exact figures have yet to be tallied.

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Trains delayed and roads slippery in Sweden despite lower snowfall

Sweden's state-owned rail company SJ cancelled several train services on Tuesday as a result of the snowy weather, while forecasters warned that roads could still be slippery in many regions.

Trains delayed and roads slippery in Sweden despite lower snowfall

SJ is cancelling several regional trains on Tuesday between Stockholm and Uppsala, Stockholm and Västerås, and Gävle and Linköping at the request of the Swedish Transport Administration, which wants to free up space on the tracks. 

At the same time, weather forecaster SMHI warned that, while snowfall would decrease over the day, there would still be a risk of slippery roads in many areas.

“It’s still continuing to snow, but the intensive snowfall we are now warning about will come to an end during the day, starting in the south of the country,” state meteorologist Angelica Lundberg told the TT newswire.  “Over the coming days there may be an increased risk of slipping and this is the case most of all close to the coast.” 

Bengt Olsson, press officer for the Swedish Transport Administration, told SVT that the disruptions seen on Sunday and Monday looked likely to ease off on Tuesday. 

“It’s a bit calmer so far. There’s another type of road surface to day. It’s starting to freeze up a but. There’s a lot of crust from the snow and patches of ice out on the road, so its the risk of skidding that we are trying to deal with today.”

The slippery roads have led to some busses being cancelled, with Dalatrafiken, the bus operator in Dalarna, cancelling several regional bus services. 

Buses parked at the Keolis bus depot in Värtahamnen cruise terminal in Stockholm.
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Stockholm’s transport operator SL suspended the Lindingöbanan Light-railway line on Tuesday morning, and has also reduced some commuter train services. In Söderort, Huddinge and Botkyrka all bus services have been cancelled. 

“The measures taken to prevent skidding aren’t working,” SL’s press spokesperson Andreas Strömberg told SVT. “At Juliaborg in Huddinge six of our buses got stuck, so the traffic controllers decided to cancel all further services so we can get in snow ploughs.

Snow was continuing to fall on Tuesday over much of central Sweden, and SMHI has issued the lowest “yellow” weather warning for Sörmland, Västmanland, Örebro, Dalarna, and the north of Värmland. 

In most places, there is now between 5cm-15cm of snow, with 20cm in some places. 

 
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