Lapland seeing high waters, unusually heavy snow

A view of the Pattijoki river on 13 October, 2023. North Ostrobothnia and Ostrobothnia have seen exceptional flooding this month. Waters are not as high in Lapland, at least for now. ( Timo Nykyri / Yle )

Floods threaten southern Lapland, while deep snow covers the region’s central areas.

Water courses in southern Lapland are near flood levels after unusually heavy rains this month, and temperatures over next few days will determine whether or not water levels will continue to rise.

The situation is like the smaller floods usually seen in the spring, according to Juha-Petri Kämäräinen, a water management expert at Lapland’s ELY Centre for Economic Development, Transport and Environment.

“The weather has been variable. It’s always a problem when the temperature varies. Sometimes it’s on the plus side and then it cools down quickly,” said Kämäräinen.

There have been similar situations during past early winters, but following record rainfall in September, conditions has been eased by subzero temperatures. However, flooding may get even worse if the snow melts.

“If the weather warms up, and especially if it rains, there might be another surge at least in the Tornio River Valley. There is also a fair amount of snow in the catchment areas of the Kemijoki, Ounasjoki and Ivalojoki rivers,” he said.

Locals being advised 

Kämäräinen said that the effect of climate change is visible with temperature fluctuations being seen as winter arrives.

Locals are being advised to keep an eye on water levels, especially in areas where ice packs may form, and to get anything well away from riverbanks that they don’t want to get wet.

Cold waters can build up ice on the bottom of channels hindering the flow of water.

“Cold and supercooled waters accumulate on stones on the riverbed and create a dam,” Kämäräinen explained.

Motorists should also watch out for flooding from roadside ditches.

“The water content of the soil is high now, and if it freezes, it will block ditches, pushing water out onto the roads,” he said.

Deep snow in central Lapland

The Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) reports that central Lapland currently has exceptionally deep snow cover for the time of year, with more than 30 cm of snow on the ground in Salla and Enontekiö.

Temperatures are forecast to drop nationwide later this week and coastal areas may see rain, sleet or snow.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Oldest town in Yukon almost wiped out by ice jams and flooding, CBC News

Sweden: Heavier rainfall will increase risk of landslides and flooding in Sweden, Radio Sweden.

United Kingdom: Arctic ice melt could put 1.5 million UK properties at flooding risk: report, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Bursting ice dam in Alaska highlights risks of glacial flooding around the globe, The Associated Press

Yle News

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