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Global Warming a Reality in Finland
[Opinion] Winter photographs from Helsinki
Amin George Forji (amingeorge)     Print Article 
Published 2007-01-13 13:16 (KST)   
The author's dog having fun in January 2006.
©2007 Amin George Forji

Global warming, said to be the gradual but constant increase in the temperature of the Earth's surface purportedly caused by the burning of fuels and industrial pollutants, is fast becoming a reality the world-over.

On a personal note, the concept became even more obvious to me, since December 2006, as I planned to write a "Christmas article" for OhmyNews from Helsinki Finland, upon the recommendation of one of the editors (Claire George). In her email of Dec. 3, 2006, she wrote: "I imagine that the Scandinavians are Christmas experts because they have so much snow." And truly, that used to be the case, but slowly and surely, not anymore.

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To cut the long story short, I waited for the snow in vain to have snapshots for my said Christmas article, and in the end had no other choice but to refrain from writing anything. "It would not look like a Scandinavian Christmas at all if it is not white (no snow)," I told myself. One blogger summed it up in the following words:

"There is an old Finnish Christmas Carol where they sing that Christmas is like a summer in the middle of winter. The global warming is giving a new literal meaning to the song: after the very warm year we are having extremely warm winter. No snow, no ice, instead green grass and buds in bushes -- and because there is no snow the darkness is unbelievable!"

After the "summer" Christmas, I have been making other observations around Helsinki to see how much global warming is truly affecting the city, and I have come to realize from my findings that those changes are just more than enormous. By this time of the year, the temperature in Helsinki normally ranges between -10째C to -22째C, coupled with severe wind. All trees are normally dry and white with snow. Being one of the most northernmost countries in the world, the Finnish winter is normally associated with snow and ice. Since it is too cold, people have to go out in very thick jackets, shoes, and gloves.

Moreover, at this time of the year, everyone is normally mad about saunas, funnily referred to here as the "winter summer engine."

At this time of the year, the sea and lakes are usually all frozen, allowing people to ski or skate on top. Other games such as ice hockey are normally also part of Finnish winter activities.

No snow on this Helsinki street in January 2007
©2007 Amin George Forji

These Helsinki steps are clear of snow. January 2007
©2007 Amin George Forji

But almost all of the above have changed this year around Helsinki. The temperature has ranged between -1 to +11, the trees are unbelievably so green, and no single lake or sea is frozen, or appears to show signs of being so at all this year. Because there is no snow, and eventually no ice, most winter activities such as ice hockey, skating, skiing, ice climbing, ice driving, ice fishing, ice biking...are all dormant.

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To alleviate the loss, the deficiency, the Helsinki Municipal council has created an artificial ice ground at the heart of the city center square, to enable youth to recover their glorious winter traditions. But this has been far from being enough. Places are generally as dry as in spring, and there is no promise that the snow is around the corner.

Artificial snow ground in Helsinki in January 2007
©2007 Amin George Forji

In the absence of "Finnish cold," people have been less motivated to go to saunas, and most commercial ones are having their worst turn-over ever.

Interestingly, almost every tertiary shop is anticipating a dramatic loss. To alleviate this, almost every shop has embarked on "ale" (the Finnish word for sales reductions). As one of the sales ladies in a clothing shop, Marie Kaisa, confessed to me: "If there are three winters as this in a row, I can bet you that so many companies will close their doors, and we would return to those days of unemployment."

Shops are suffering in the unusually warm weather. January 2007
©2007 Amin George Forji

But Asonglefac Rose-Mary, a Cameroonian student who has been in Helsinki since 2001, defers considerably from Kaisa. When I seek her opinion about this year's winter, she happily told me: "You cannot believe. This is just the very best of all winters. At least, one is not a prisoner to cold this year."

It feels like spring but it's not. January 2007
©2007 Amin George Forji

Sunny weather in January 2007
©2007 Amin George Forji

The author on the surface of a lake in January 2006.
©2007 Amin George Forji

The author on the surface of a cold lake in January 2006.
©2007 Amin George Forji

- Global Warming Is a Reality in Finland by Amin George Forji (Read by Claire George) 

©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Amin George Forji

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