As Norwegians headed into annual Midsummer Eve festivities on Monday, called Sankthansaften, most were being advised to have sweaters and a rain jacket handy. Temperatures have fallen and clouds have rolled in, after the warmest spring and early summer in more than two decades.
It’s ironic at best that chillier and wetter weather would move in just as school lets out for the summer holidays. Gorgeous weather in May and June was enough to trick many local residents into thinking that they didn’t need to book summer holidays in warmer climes, and several travel bureaus were complaining to local media about a decline in business just last week. “When the weather is so nice, many Norwegians prefer to just stay home,” one tour operator specializing in charter trips to southern Europe told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
Among the best on record
On Monday, state meteorologists could confirm that spring and early summer all over Norway have statistically been among the best on record, especially in the southeast. NRK reported that the area around Oslo known as Østlandet could count fully 34 days with maximum temperatures over 20C (nearly 70F) in April, May and through to Friday June 20, when the sun “officially turned,” as NRK puts it, and the days gradually started getting shorter again.
Only once before, since statistics related to spring and summer temperatures started being logged in 1938, have there been so many warm days so early in the summer season, and that was in 1992, according to new numbers released over the weekend by the state meteorologic institute.
Weather researcher Jostein Mamen told NRK that this year was marked by high-pressure systems over much of Norway, not just in the southern portions of the country. The most northerly counties of Finnmark and Troms also experienced unusually warm temperatures in late May and early June, even though they got hit with wintry weather again last week. The Trøndelag counties and western Norway also enjoyed lots of warm and dry weather, so dry that fire danger has been a big problem.
Not tied to climate change
Mamen claimed the warm weather this spring and into June isn’t necessarily tied to climate change. “We had some warm springs and early summers in the 1940s, too,” Mamen told NRK. This year, he said, Norway has simply been lucky in avoiding low-pressure systems that have swamped parts of southern and eastern Europe recently. In southern Norway, he noted, “the bad weather has either been north of us, or father south in Europe.”
Now there are fears that Norway’s quota for warm summer weather has already been filled, and that the rest of the summer will be cool and rainy. “That’s happened earlier and it can happen again,” Mamen said. “It’s a bit coincidental what the weather will be like now.”
Immediate forecasts, though, called for cooler temperatures and showers that threatened to dampen Midsummer bonfires ready to be lit along the fjord. Another batch of new statistics this week showed, however, that only 15 percent of Norwegians actually celebrate Midsummer/Santkhans, far fewer than in Sweden and Denmark, reported the research site forskning.no. In religious circles in Norway, the day is also meant to honour John the Baptist, known in Norway as St Hans or Santkhans.