Nordkalotten 2015 – the weather

Let’s make it short: I feel betrayed by the winter this year! It was too windy and it was too warm! Much too warm. And when it snowed, I was far away.

First of all it was too warm – the average temperature of the whole February was 8 °C too high in parts of central Swedish Lapland. That’s about the same difference as between Stockholm and Rome! The whole february! And March wasn’t better. The “all journey minimum temperature” I measured was only -24 °C, I expected temperatures near -40 °C, at least once.

And it was very windy – Norway got its hurricane Ole with average wind speeds up to 36 m/s (that’s level 12 on the Beaufort scale) and gusts up to 53 m/s (that’s level 16 on the extended Beaufort scale!). But many others days were windy and stormy, too, even if not so severe as hurricane Ole.

Most trees where free of snow. Either the snow was blown away or it just melted and dropped down. That made not only the pine forests looking quite boring, but also the snow looking quite dirty, since it was covered with leaves, needles, small branches, bark and much more.

That didn’t look like the untouched, virgin winter landscape in early February but more like city parks in late April, a minor catastrophe for photographers who want to show impressive winter images. Luckily there were exceptions and I got at least some wintry images with snow covered trees, even if only a few.

Yes, it has been cold in January. Some days. In Sweden, but not in coastal Norway where I was at this time. Yes, it snowed ridiculously much in the first days in February, both in the coast and in central Lapland, but not in Abisko in the western mountain region, where I was at this time. It was a bit like being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Later, when Ole arrived, big amounts of snow where forecasted in the mountains, but I considered the weather too dangerous to drive there. As in early February I only saw the results, never the snow fall itself.

And then came the warmth. Since the 24th of February I’ve measured temperatures above zero almost every single day. And this effect wasn’t local, it took place in the whole Northern Europe. In Norway, in Sweden, in Finland. Streets were icy, snow was crusty and I was just glad when it didn’t rain.

Yes, when it comes to weather I am really disappointed. It was the lousiest winter ever, that I experienced north from the polar circle, where I’ve been travelling round since January 2003 now.

Don’t get me wrong! The journey was great, but mostly it was great despite of the weather, not because of the weather.

Last winter was quite bad, too, this winter lousy, now I hope, that winter 2016 will be extraordinary cold and snowy and that I’ll find the time to travel around again.

Links

In between the seasons

Today is winter solstice which means that it’s the shortest day of the year. For the astronomers winter starts today, for the meteorologists it already started on 1st December. But winter, well …

It has been a special winter so long this year. Again.

Beside of some colder days it has been too warm with more rain than snow. All minor streets are covered with a shell of wet ice and the thin leftover snow cover is icy, too.

It’s almost the same as last year. Or 2013. Or 2011. Perhaps it’s just the normal weather anomalies, but perhaps it’s already the ongoing climate shift and we will call that a normal winter twenty years from now. Future will show.

The water level in the Baltic Sea has been high for several weeks, today with +60 cm; +95 cm are predicted for Christmas Day. That’s what it looks like:

On other parts of the ice you could see wet snow mobile tracks, but I wouldn’t dare to enter the ice without asking the locals.

According to the forecast the weather won’t change much the next days and on Christmas Day it probably will rain. But there’re places way up north, where it will be even warmer this year: The forecast for Montréal in Canada predicts +17 °C for Christmas Eve!

 

 

Translation:

EnglishGerman
winter solsticeWintersonnenwende

Christmas flood

Yesterdays Christmas was still a bit white and snowy but then – déjà vu – it got warmer and started to rain. At the same time the sea level was extremely high again: More than 100 cm above normal. I did the beach walk with chest waders and spikes and took the picture of one of the small pine trees with my underwater camera:

The locals that have their summer cottages on the near island Storgrundet came with their cars to check the sea level. They were a bit nervous because just now they cannot reach the island; neither by boat nor by foot. The ice itself is still thick but not at the borders where the warm weather melted it away.

Same day, another place: Skellefteälven – even more water than some weeks ago. The waterside promenade along the river had a layer of ice on the bottom and was flooded with up to 30 cm water.

Interesting weather, but I miss the snow.

Did anyone of you had a white Christmas?

Colourful sunset

After a really warm day (+12 °C!) we got a colourful sunset. Unfortunately I was too late to catch the most colourful period.

The ice on the Baltic Sea is still thick, but the snow melted and left many ice water puddles between the snowmobile tracks.

Thaw

When it’s more than 10 °C in mars for two days a lot of snow thaws and transforms normal streets into a proving ground for jeeps. Soft slush, sheer ice, deep tracks and huge puddles cover the streets and crossings and I wait for the day where I’ll get stuck twenty metres from home.

On the other side the scenery can look almost nice, at least when you lower your camera as much as possible:

Slippery When Wet

We got roller coaster weather again. Yesterday morning we had -15 °C and in the evening about +3 °C.

Today Annika, two friends and I made an excursion to Kågnäsudden onto the ice. It was even warmer than yesterday (+7°C) and quite windy. The surface of the thick ice was very wet with many puddles of clear ice water and the structure looked like the rippled sand of the tidal flats in Northern Germany. The wind gusts blew tiny ripples over the large meltwater pools and it looked like the ice shield would reach as far as Finland.

But no – it didn’t. The wind and the waves had started to break the ice. We crossed the ice and went to the near island Kågnäshällan. We all were equipped with either spikes or snowshoes to be able to go on the slippery, wet ice.

Right behind the seaside shore of Kågnäshällan we could see the waves lifting and lowering the ice and finally breaking it apart. The rocks round the light tower were bare of ice – too warm was this season’s winter weather.

Along the rocky shore lay large blocks of ice. They glittered in the sun because they were wet and free of snow.

These ice floes were found everywhere. Along the coast but even between the small alder trees further on land. I guess that one of the high water levels this winter had flushed these ice floes ashore where they razored the bark from the thin tree trunks.

And the winter on land? Less and less snow – much too warm – I’m longing for colder weather and snow. Probably it will come in the beginning of May …

From winter to summer in seven days.

I hardly can remember the intense snow fall a week ago, when I look at a day as today.

Today in a nutshell: sun, shorts, temperatures between 15° and 22° C, sandals, blue sky, t-shirt only, ice cream.

It looked like early spring with only some of the birches starting to come into leaf but it felt more like high summer with today’s temperatures.

Annika and I have been in the “Arboretum Norr” today, just five days later as last year. Last year we could see many different species of flowers, this year only some, mostly Tussilago and Alpine Penny-cress, the two flowers that use to bloom first in the season. No wonder, April and May has been colder than last year. But today warmth attracted many butterflies, such as this European peacock.

And Tussilago is a beautiful flower anyway.

It’s summer

When you look out of your window and see long green grass in the urgent need of being cut, where 4 weeks ago a snow shower covered the whole garden with white

When you go along the river Skellefteälven and finally other flowers started to bloom than only tussilago

When nights are no dark nights any longer and it will take many weeks until you can see the first stars again …

When you paddle on the river Skellefteälven, barefoot, just with t-shirt and shorts, not with a drysuit as three weeks ago and you even enjoy becoming wet by some breaking waves, because it’s so refreshing …

… then it’s summer in Northern Sweden.

And summer is more than welcome after the long winter. By the way, summer solstice is just 10 days away.

Summer experience – a bicycle tour in 7+1 chapters

The advantage of a short workday

How much should I work for a German customer today? It’s Corpus Christi, a holiday in Germany but not in Sweden. Well, what about a half day? I finished work at 11:30 and shortly after I started a bicycle tour. The first one this year. Today’s destination: Budsba, a Thai restaurant at Skellefteå Solbacken.

Soon I was in the forest where I expected to be alone. But after some hundred metres there was a huge herd of children, who were too busy with themselves to let me though. Anyway I managed to squeeze though and soon I left the group behind – no children were harmed.

I took the forest path along the lake with the most boring name. It’s called Sjön – “The Lake”.

Some weeks ago parts of the way were quite wet, but now it’s much drier. After some bends I saw a car. Then two people with a table. Camping? Picknick? I came nearer and saw the table packed with plastic cups filled with water and juice. The people invited me to drink and I accepted thankfully. They were teachers and told me that it’s skolavslutning tomorrow – the last school day before nine weeks of summer holidays. Today the pupils of the Örjansskolan had a hiking day.

Thanks for the drink, teachers.

The ways are for the cottages

I continued the small way, which got sandy – not so nice for cycling – but soon I came to a larger way. I turned right and left again and cycled along a gravel road to Södra Skatan, one of the many cottage colonies by the sea.

Some of the cottages are huge and sometimes they surpass their owner’s regular houses. Most roads near the shore are only made for one reason: reaching those cottages. That’s why most ways come from the inland, lead to some summer cottages and end at the last house. They are hardly connected to each other beside of some narrow paths through the forest, if at all. The way after this last cottage was quite broad but stony and muddy so I had to walk the bike for some metres.

In remembrance of winter

Since there are many cottages along Västerbottens Baltic Sea most of these connection paths are short and soon I was on another road, this time an asphalt street. Beside the street there were many log piles. Almost all Swedish forests are planted for getting timber and piles of logs are a common view in Sweden.

Do you see the white thingy on the left side of the log pile? I stopped the bicycle and looked. I looked again and my first consumption was right: It’s old snow which had transformed to ice. I never saw such nearby so late in the year!

Intermezzo: Best food at the ugliest place

I continued the street until I left it to take the gravel road to Solbacken. It ran through forests and sometimes it was quite stony and hard to bike. Clouds approached, but it was still warm with temperatures between 20 °C and 25 °C. Anyway I passed by another winter souvenir: A snowmobile trail. Some more kilometres and I met civilisation again. On the other side of the European Route E4 I arrived at today’s destination: Budsba.

What do you choose – beauty or truth?

I took it easy after the lunch, because I ate too much. That’s the problem with huge lunch buffets of tasty food. And spicy – phew, one of the chilly peppers was quite hot. After lunch I crossed the E4 again looking for the short cut to Fällbacken. I found it and after a short rocky passage the gravel path was quite beautiful and not as steep as expected. Here’s a photo of the way:

It wasn’t so steep, because it was the wrong way! It ended after a hundred metres. I returned and found the right way. This way was quite stony. Then it was quite stony and quite steep. Then it was quite stony, quite steep and quite wet.Here’s a photo of the right way:

First I tried to ride my bicycle but soon my hands started to hurt due to the permanent breaking. Therefore I descended and walked my bicycle until I reached the road that would lead me to Boviksbadet, a sandy beach. There I would clean my muddy feet.

Beach time

An asphalt road again – it was nice and relaxing to just pedal along without looking for stones or glueing my fingers to the handbrakes. I arrived at the beach of Boviksbadet,  the bathing beach of Boviken.

I took a rest but I didn’t bath. It was warm and I would have loved to swim. The sea at Buviksbadet however is extremely shallow. You could walk for ages and still would remain in only knee deep water. I waded in a bit, so at least my feet were clean again.

Come on, it’s just a quick shortcut

After the rest I continued the road and turned left into the Bergviksvägen. This way leads along the Storberget (100 m) and ascends to 90 metres within a kilometre. First I tried to climb the ascend on my bike, using the lowest available gear, but soon I had to rest while my heart beat like a colibri heart. While resting it started to buzz. Some hundred mosquitoes tried to suck my blood. They had a buffet by their own: Hands, neck, eyes, ankles, arms, legs …

Since I ate too much at the Thai restaurant I didn’t want the litte fellows to make the same mistake and so I decided to move on and walk my bike uphills. Walking is less exhausting and so I was on the “top” quite soon. After cycling one kilometre downhills I had to make up my mind.

  • Should I follow all small paths along the coast, which would give me more bathing opportunities but would make the tour longer? Well, no – the sun was almost gone and I was a bit tired, too.
  • Should I continue the way, meat the asphalt road I took on the way there and return the same way? Well, no – I don’t like taking the same way twice the same day.

But there seemed to be another possibility: I could follow the road for three other kilometres and take the small shortcut southwards, where I would meet a road to Ursviken, which is quite near Skelleftehamn.

And so I did. You should know however that it can be quite uncomfortable following me on shortcuts  …

The gravel road descended and was quite broad, but since it was so much gravel on it and potholes in it I didn’t dare to let the bike go and braked from time to time. I approached the shortcut, which didn’t look very promising, but I gave it a try.

I cycled fifty metres away from the main road and looked down to that something that was marked on my map with a black dotted line:

I could return to the main road and just return home the same way, but I still didn’t like the idea. The shortcut would be just some hundred metres and only the first twenty of them seemed to be muddy.

I took my first steps and – splash! – I sank into the mud up to my knees. I freed one foot but unfortunately not the sandal that was still submerged deeply into the mud. It took some time until I could locate it and managed to dig it out. I clamped the sandals on the pannier rack and continued the way barefooted. It was short indeed, hardly 30 metres but my bike was muddy up to the axes and I – well, have a look:

So much to shortcuts …

The “way” became better with some other but less deep mud holes, then it became a grassy path that probably didn’t have been used for a long time (I guess, I know why!)

Now I longed for a bath. My bicycle as well. Anywhere …

Cooling down

… and I was lucky.

The path broadened and soon was covered with gravel again. Marvellous! I knew, that there would be some ponds along the way and I directly stopped at the first one. First I dunked my clothes, then my bike, then myself. After the bath I almost looked civilisation-compatible again. Well, almost!

I continued cycling. The gravel path became a gravel road, became an asphalt street and soon I was on the Skelleftehamnsleden, the road leading to Skelleftehamn, where I arrived round about five hours after my departure.

The daily stage: 42 km biking · ± 800 m walking the bike · ± 100 m bog walking. Not much in distance but in experience.