As Norwegians headed into yet another grey, wet and decidedly non-wintry weekend, state meteorologists had only one main message: “Get used to it.” They predict the rain and clouds and lack of snow at low elevations will last at least until the middle of March.
“We’ve had lots and lots of mild air from the southeast,” Øyvind Johnsen of the state meteorological institute told newspaper Aftenposten this week. “That’s the main reason.” Cold jet streams from the north have collided with warmer air from the south, he said, locking over the Atlantic and eventually heading north again to settle over southern Norway, also the British Isles and much of northern Europe.
“That’s why we’ve had grey, gloomy winter days with little sun, while farther north there’s been sun and it’s been cold but dry,” Johnsen said.
Weather maps indicated, though, that overcast weather with rain in the forecast was settling over most of the country through the weekend and into next week. Temperatures were well over the freezing point in most places, even in popular mountain ski centers like Hovden and Trysil, where rain, not snow, was also in the forecast.
Skiing events threatened
While there’s been lots of snow in the mountains of southern Norway in recent weeks, the warmer weather has been causing problems in the form of avalanche danger and flooding, not just poorer skiing conditions. At Kvitfjell in the mountains of Gudbrandsdalen, where a World Cup alpine skiing competition was taking place this weekend, arrangers were relieved to finally get some colder weather that saved the ski runs. Conditions were clearly good enough for hometown hero Kjetil Jansrud, who won the men’s downhill on Friday.
Elsewhere, there was serious concern whether ski races could be held. Sweden’s famous Vasalöppet, the long-distance race in Dalarna, was threatened but its organizers were opting to go ahead with it on Sunday. Oslo’s ski association (Skiforeningen) was also promising to move forward on Sunday with its annual Barnas Holmenkolldag, billed as the world’s largest ski race and festival for children.
Next weekend’s World Cup Nordic Skiing races at Holmenkollen in Oslo were also moving forward, with more than 350 athletes from 30 countries taking part, many of them fresh from the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Meteorologists were warning once again, though, of mild temperatures, grey skies and fog. They hoped it wouldn’t rain.
The unusual weather has also led to another batch of warmth records, with the northern archipelago of Svalbard logging temperatures of a mere minus-1.2C, fully 15 degrees warmer than normal in February. Other Norwegian cities also reported temperatures of 5-10C over normal, with Trondheim recording its warmest February day ever last week, of more than 11C.
In the southern city of Fredrikstad, the grass was green and a local golf club at Onsøy was preparing to open this weekend, offering a record early start to the golfing season. “We had thought about opening last weekend, but then we suddenly got lots of snow,” Ole Petter Ellingsen of Onsøy Golfklubb told newspaper Fredriksstad Blad. It melted, though, “and if the weather holds out, we’re opening.”