Thermometers hit nearly 19C (around 67F) in some parts of Southern Norway on Tuesday, setting off a winter heat wave that both meteorologists and farmers are calling “frightening.” The warmth set new records for February, but it’s not being warmly received.
“Something is very wrong,” Gurine Seland, a farmer in Aust-Agder, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) as buds sprouted on her raspberry and blueberry plants. “This is way too early.”
She worked outdoors in a T-shirt and admitted to enjoying the sunshine and warmth, “but this is frightening.” Her farm is known for producing some of Norway’s earliest new potatoes but she insists it’s “much too early” to think about potatoes now.
Seland is far from alone in lamenting the record early warmth in late February. It was 18.7C in the coastal town of Grimstad on Tuesday, breaking the record of 16.9C set on February 28, 2012 by a solid margin. Etne in Hordaland on the West Coast logged 15.7C, while it was nearly 15C in Vestfold and at Linge in Møre og Romsdal.
On the ski trails at Lygna, nearly 800 meters above sea level in Hadeland, the snow was soft and thermometers posted on trail signs showed 9C (nearly 50F) in mid-afternoon. As snow and ice melt all over Southern Norway, the traditional winter ski season seems to be coming to an end, just weeks after it finally got underway. There’s always a chance more snow will fall in March, and now it will be needed by organizers of Lygna’s upcoming Norwegian Championships at the end of next month.
On Wednesday morning, however, termometers showed 6C before 9am, at a time of year when temperatures are usually well below zero.
Climate researchers think several places in Norway will all but hop over winter in the future, and have milder temperatures all year round instead. Bjørn Samset of Norway’s climate research center Senter for klimaforskning isn’t surprised by the new warmth records in the southern region of Aust-Agder.
“We notice especially in the spring how the world is steadily getting warmer,” Samset told NRK. “The growth season is beginning earlier and autumn lasts longer.” The question is whether Norwegian nature will be robust enough to tolerate the change, he said.
State meteorologist Hans Olav Hygen has no doubts that warmth records will be set much more often in the future. Samset agrees, and notes that the consequences for agriculture can be serious.
“It can be viewed as positive because of the longer growing season,” Samset said, “but early pollen seasons interrupted by cold snaps can create problems for fruit, berries and insects.” Ornithologists are already worrying about the effect on birds as well, since they rely on insects to eat.
Norway’s farmers are already under pressure to change their ways, to cut their own carbon emissions that contribute to climate change and, especially in Europe, to cut their use of insecticides. Seland, the farmer in Aust-Agder, is worried but also thinks it can be an “exciting” time to be a farmer.
“I think we’ll see much more of this in the future, with the weather more extreme in all directions,” she told NRK. “It’s exciting, but challenging at the same time.”