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More rain adds to soaked summer

Norwegians were told to brace for even more rain during the weekend, further soaking one of the wettest months of July on record. State meteorologists have had to admit that this summer has been marked by precipitation way above what they consider normal, and it’s even making some locals sick.

Rain poured down on outdoor events on the 17th of May holiday this year, and it seems like it's mostly been raining ever since. Experts now admit it's been a much wetter summer in Norway than normal. PHOTO: Views and News

The weather forecasters who draw enormous amounts of attention during Norwegians’ precious summer holiday weeks had claimed earlier this month that the near-constant rain falling all over the country was not necessarily abnormal. Rather, they suggested, Norwegians have a tendency to forget that heavy rain, also hail, is common during the summer months, and that sun-starved locals are biased by their memories and dreams of clear blue skies and warm summer holidays.

During the past week, however, as statistics trickle in for July, the meteorologists have had to concede that the numbers prove them wrong. “Normal” levels of precipitation are measured over 30-year periods in specific geographic areas, and from 1960 to 1990 in the area in and around Oslo, for example, “normal” rainfall amounted to 81mm in July. This year, 125.5mm was already measured by early this week.

“We passed the level for normal precipitation at Blindern (where the state meteorological institute is based in Oslo) already on July 12,” Marit Helene Jensen of the institute told newspaper Dagsavisen. “And it’s rained a lot since then, so we’re far beyond normal levels.”

Dark skies moving in over Oslo after a brief spell of sunshine. PHOTO: Views and News

The sheer instability of weather systems this year has also severely challenged the meteorologists. There have been many days when the weather has abruptly shifted from pouring rain to short periods of sunshine, only to be followed by more pouring rain. Temperatures have also been unusually low, with only a handful of days when thermometers have crept up over 20C  (68F). The sun shone brightly over  Oslo for most of the day on Thursday, offering a respite from the wet gloom, but residents woke up to leaden skies again on Friday. They’d cleared somewhat by midday.

The mountains and valleys of Norway have also seen lots of pouring rain and hail, even snow, this month. Flood warnings have been mounted in counties such as Sogn og Fjordane, Hordaland and Rogaland, and Troms suffered severe damage from a surprise flood sparked by unexpectedly heavy rain last week.

Historic timber houses like these near Folldal are vulnerable to damage from heavy rain and dampness, and museum officials are monitoring many of them closely. PHOTO: Views and News

Not only are many Norwegians dealing with flooding but the persistent rainfall itself is causing concern for historic buildings that have survived for centuries but now show signs of rot and other damage from the dampness. Norway has more than 300 wooden buildings dating from the Middle Ages, and conservationists are monitoring them closely for signs of trouble, not least after some rotting timber was found at some buildings at Norway’s popular outdoor museum Folkemuseet in Oslo. Museum officials have added new rain gutters on some of them, jacked up others and replaced timber closest to soaked ground.

While many outdoor events have literally been washed out this summer, museums are reporting increases in visitor counts, with tourists as well as locals heading indoors. Cinemas, often almost empty with some even closed during July and early August, have also sold unusually large numbers of tickets.

Retailers are reporting brisk business, with some sociologists suggesting that folks comfort themselves by going shopping when the weather is poor. “If it hadn’t been raining so much, we’d probably be at the beach,” Bente Nygaard, age 41, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) while her children romped at an indoor playground at the Sandaker Shopping Center in Oslo. DN reported that its operators have seen profits double this year, thanks to the rain. Business has also been booming at Ikea stores in Norway, for example, while outdoor restaurants and bars have had a miserable season.

A recent survey by research firm InFact, conducted for newspaper VG, indicates that many Norwegians actually get sick from all the bad summer weather, suffering concentration problems, depression, forgetfulness, fatigue and anxiety. The survey showed that one in four Norwegians have been værsyk (literally, “weather sick”) this summer, with residents of Trøndelag and Nordland topping the list.

For the organizers of the upcoming Norway Cup football tournament for youth, meanwhile, the rain that’s soaked playing fields may force them to move matches from the fields at Ekeberg in Oslo to others with artificial turf. With more heavy rain predicted for Saturday, tournament officials fear the fields at Ekeberg will quickly turn into a mud bath and make it difficult to play.

Next week’s forecast calls for more unstable weather patterns, rain, and temperatures below 20C over most of the country. “We’re hoping the weather gets better in August,” said Mette Habberstad of the Norwegian trekking association DNT, which runs many lodges for hikers in the mountains, where there’s still more snow on the ground than there’s been in 40 year. She told DN that hikers call and ask “where’s it dry enough, without snow, to go?” Even sheep released for open summer grazing have run into trouble, because snow still covers the grass they normally nibble.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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