Northern Norway sweated through sudden and record-high temperatures this week and now they’ve set off rapid melting of snow that was still lying at high elevations. Local officials braced for flooding, while weather experts linked it all to climate change.
It’s seldom warmer in the northernmost regions of Troms and Finnmark than in southern Europe, but thermometers hit 31.9C (nearly 90F) in Skibotn on Monday and 30.2C in Tromsø. Bodø broke a nearly 50-year-old record while Bardufoss, Banak and Alta all sweltered in more than 30C heat. After shivering through single-digit temperatures earlier this month, residents of both Kirkenes and Vardø woke up to temperatures well over 20C.
The warm weather continued through the night, since the Midnight Sun is still shining, prompting many to sleep outside and dive into chilly Arctic seas. State meteorologists attributed the warm weather to hot air moving up from North Africa. Temperatures fell as forecast later in the week but were due to rise again during the weekend.
New records ‘quite normal’
Climate researcher Erik Kolstad of NORCE and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research in Bergen tied the heatwave to climate change. “It’s become quite normal that new heat records are being set around the world the past few years,” Kolstad told state broadcaster NRK. “It has to do with powerful warming of the globe during the past 100 years.”
He also said that dramatic shifts in the weather are also becoming normal, not least in Norway. Temperatures in Oslo, for example, have risen and fallen as much as 10 degrees in the course of a day this past spring, while lightning, thunder and heavy rain are also more common.
It can all lead to landslides and floods, and that’s exactly what the acting mayor of Kåfjord in Troms, Britt Pedersen, was having to deal with on Wednesday. The local football field was already under water and state waterways directorate NVE sent out flood warnings at the orange level, second only to red alerts.
“It apples to the mountain areas where there’s still enough snow that when it melts, it will release lots of water,” said Seija Stenius at NVE. Pedersen was able to avoid evacuating residents near a local river, at least so far, but wasn’t the only mayor around Norway bracing for floods. The large southern valley of Gudbrandsdal was also warning of floods.