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Less snow cover, shorter winters in Finland since 1960s

Finnish Meteorological Institute researchers said the reduction in snow cover was caused by global climate change and is likely to accelerate.

Tulviva pelto Somerolla.
File photo from February 2016 of a field in western Finland flooded by melting snow. Image: Eero Salomaa

Snow cover averages across many areas of Finland have decreased between the years of 1961-2014, according to a study carried out by researchers at the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI).

"Snow conditions in high‐latitude regions are changing in response to climate warming, and these changes are likely to accelerate as the warming proceeds," the report's authors wrote.

The maximum annual amounts of snow cover in southern and western Finland - and locally in some central areas - have decreased by an average of 2-4 cm every ten years during 1961-2014.

However, there was no statistically significant change in snow cover amounts in northern Finland during that 53-year period, according to the FMI.

Researcher Anna Luomaranta said maximum snow cover averages measured around 20-40 cm in south-western Finland and more than one metre in Finnish Lapland.

Snow arrives later, ends earlier

According to the research, the duration of snow cover also decreased during those five decades.

Luomaranta said that the snowy season arrived later particularly in central, south-western and western parts of northern Ostrobothnia.

Snow cover melted earlier especially in western Finland, according to the researcher.

The disappearance of snow cover took place about four days earlier each decade during that period in western areas, and about one to three days earlier across the rest of the country, according to Luomaranta.

Major regional differences

"Our results indicate that regional differences of changes in snow conditions can be relatively large, even within such a small (region) as Finland," according to the study summary.

The annual maximum snow depth that typically occurs in March was found to have decreased across more than 85 percent of the country, most strongly in western coastal areas.

In almost half of Finland, this decrease occurred despite an increase in snowy weather, according to the research.

"Our findings highlight the complexity of the responses of snow conditions to climatic variability in northern Europe," the authors stated.

The report, "Snow cover trends in Finland over 1961-2014 based on gridded snow depth observations," was published by the International Journal of Climatology.

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