Exceptionally early heatwave hits Finland

Nordic Finland does not usually experience heatwaves in May (Olivier MORIN)
Nordic Finland does not usually experience heatwaves in May (Olivier MORIN)

Finland has been experiencing unusually warm weather this May, prompting the Meteorological Institute to issue a heat warning on Monday.

Temperatures across large parts of the Nordic nation, the north of which lies above the Arctic Circle, are due to surge above 27C (81 F) starting on Tuesday, the institute said.

"This is probably the first time ever we have issued a heatwave warning in May", Iiris Viljamaa from the Finnish Meteorological Institute told AFP, adding that such alerts were normally issued in June at the earliest.

Scientists say that recurring heatwaves are a clear marker of global warming and that these heatwaves are set to become more frequent, longer and more intense.

"The Finnish climate has always seen changes in weather but now climate change is enhancing these kinds of weather phenomena," meteorologist Leena Laakso told AFP.

Research shows "extreme weather events will increase due to climate change," she said.

According to Laakso, the current temperatures were around 10C above average temperatures for May.

The Finnish warning is aimed at alerting people about increased health risks associated with daytime temperatures reaching 27C.

Especially the elderly, people with long-term illnesses and disabilities, babies and young children are advised to take shelter from the heat, the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare said in a statement.

"In Finland we are used to cool weather and people start to have some health issues in this kind of weather already", said Viljamaa.

On Monday, temperatures between 24 and 28C were recorded, due to a high pressure system over the country, combined with a warm, dry air mass flowing from the south.

Twelve days in May had already exceeded 25 degrees, Viljamaa said.

The town of Salo in southwestern Finland on Saturday registered the country's highest temperature of the year so far, at 28.8C.

"Now it seems the really, really hot weather will remain in Finland until the end of the month," Viljamaa said.

After Sunday the weather is expected to start cooling down, bringing much needed rain for nature and fields grappling with drought, Viljamaa added.

ank/po/yad