Helsinki’s streets are festive with vibrant Christmas decorations and bright advertisements tout the season’s must-have gifts as shoppers bustle through packed stores, yet something is amiss: There’s no snow.
The absence of white stuff has not only left Christmas revelers gloomy, it has affected businesses ranging from ski resorts to retailers and, of course, snow removal companies.
The situation is in stark contrast to last year’s heavy snowfalls at this time of year, when Finns showed off their “snow-how” to the grid-locked continent, including state-of-the-art snow removal and special motorist support teams.
However, that was then. Now, Helsinki is experiencing uncharacteristically mild temperatures this month and only light dustings of snow have come and gone.
“At the beginning of December, it was on average 6?C warmer than is usual for this time of year,” meteorologist Pauli Jokinen said.
He said the snow’s no-show in the south of the country this year was partly because of natural variations, but also a footprint of global warming.
“You can’t put a single season down to climate change, but we have seen that climate change has lifted the baseline temperatures,” he said.
The meteorologist confirmed what many Finns, especially in the milder, southern parts of the country, already fear.
“Our best guess is that in many parts of southern and western Finland, it will be a black Christmas,” Jokinen said.
After last year’s excesses, this year’s lack of snow has stonewalled many businesses.
The balmy autumn forced the cancelation of two major skiing events in Levi, Finland’s northern nerve center for competitive and recreational winter sports.
“The World Cup race and the European Cup had to be canceled because of the lack of snow. These are very big events for the area,” said Tarja Nikkanen, marketing manager for Levi Ski Resort.
Nikkanen pointed out though, that with about 25cm of snow on the ground and accommodation booked months in advance, the Christmas season still looks promising for tourists seeking a picture-perfect winter wonderland.
However, she said that the ski slopes tell a different story.
“We have the biggest snow-making equipment in Finland, but we’re not able to use it because the temperatures are not low enough to keep the snow,” she said.
During the dark winter months, when the Finnish sun sets in the mid-afternoon, residents often long for the light-reflecting quality of snow to relieve the gloom.
In northern climes like this, some people are susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition marked by bouts of depression that some research has linked to a lack of sunlight.
This year, the absence of snow, supplanted by heavy rains, has cast its shadow over the retail business as well, Jaana Kurjenoja of the Finnish Trade Association said.
In a recent survey, 42 percent of the association’s retailers said their businesses were suffering as a result of the weather conditions.
“Usually, warm clothes are popular at Christmas time, but they’re not selling this year,” Kurjenoja said. “Skiing and slalom equipment have also suffered and sports retailers say they haven’t been able to sell their winter goods.”
However, one retailer’s gloom is another’s glee.
Some merchants who lost out during last winter’s heavy snows are experiencing windfalls this year, Kurjenoja said.
“During the last two winters, the electronics retailers suffered because people were concerned about insufficient parking [in the snow-bound city] and how to get heavy equipment home,” she said. “This year electronics sales are up.”
While snow lovers and weather-dependent businesses look to the skies for salvation, officials in Helsinki continue their winter preparations just in case.
“There’s always a possibility that big changes could come ... there could be lots of snow in January and February, Jokinen said. “All hope is definitely not lost.”
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable