Historic wildfire outbreak hits Sweden amid record-breaking heat

Scandinavia is experiencing exceptionally warm temperatures, over 11 °C (20 °F) above average, for more than a month. Above-average temperatures combined with drought, lightning, and human negligence to cause what Swedish authorities are describing as the country’s most serious wildfire situation in modern times. The heatwave is expected to continue, particularly in northern Scandinavia.

Heat arrived early to Scandinavia this year, with the hottest May on record in Sweden, disappointing June, and an unusually hot July. The temperatures are exceptionally high even in the Arctic Circle, pushing well above 30 °C (86 °F) or 8 – 11 °C (14 – 20 °F) above the long-term average.

Since Monday, July 16, 2018, several locations across Scandinavia have approached or surpassed their highest temperatures observed any day or month of the year, Jason Samenow of the Capital Weather Gang reports:

In central Norway,

  • Trondheim Airport hit 32.4 °C (90.3 °F) on July 16, an all-time record.
  • Snasa hit 31.6 °C (88.9 °F) on July 16, also an all-time record.
  • Namsos hit 32.4 °C (90.3 °F) on July 16, just 0.2 °C (0.4 °F) below its all-time record from 2014.
  • Mo i Rana and Namsskogan hit 32.6 °C (90.7 °F) on July 17, all-time records.

In Finland,

  • In northern Finland, all-time high temperature of 32.2 °C (90 °F) and 31.8 °C (89.2 °F) were set at Rovaniemi and Sodankyla on July 17.
  • In southern Finland, Turku hit 33.3 °C (91.9 °F) on July 17, which was the highest temperature since 1914 when it reached 35.9 °C (96.6 °F).
  • Helsinki witnessed one of its hottest two-day periods on record July 15 and 16.

In Sweden,

  • In southern Sweden, Uppsala hit 34.4 °C (93.9 °F) on July 16, which was its highest temperature since 1975.
  • In northern Sweden, Kvikkjokk hit 32.5 °C (90.5 °F) on July 17, an all-time high.

These temperatures, combined with exceptionally dry summer, lightning and human negligence created an extreme risk for forest fire outbreaks which we are seeing now.

At least 40 wildfires are currently burning across Sweden, forcing evacuations in three counties. 11 of those 40 fires are located inside the Arctic Circle.

“This is definitely the worst year in recent times for forest fires,” Mike Peacock, a university researcher and local resident said.

Image credit: NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP/VIIRS. Thermal anomalies NASA Terra/MODIS

While wildfires are affecting entire Sweden, the three worst affected regions are in central Sweden, namely Gävleborg, Jämtland, and Dalarna.

In Älvdalen, Dalarna, efforts to extinguish a major forest fire moving through a target-practice area have been hindered by the presence of undetonated shells, according to The Local.

In Ljusdal, Gävleborg, some residents have had to evacuate the area, as have those living in parts of Härjedalen, Jämtland.

In addition to worsening wildfire season, Swedish farmers are also struggling to feed their animals and many are even having to lead cows to early slaughter after an unusually harsh drought caught the country unprepared.

Featured image: Massive wildfire in Ljusdal, Sweden. Image copyright: Robert Jonsson – Instagram @ RobertJonsson

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