Weeks of high temperatures and virtually no rain have left much of Scandinavia dangerously dry.
Wildfires are raging and Sweden has called on other European countries to help fight them. Italy, France and Norway have sent aircraft to supplement Sweden’s helicopters in fighting the flames.
Residents were evacuated from Gavleborg, Jamtland and Dalarna counties as 44 wildfires burned in the middle of Sweden. The largest fire in Fagelsjo-Lillasen in Jamtland covers more than 2,500 hectares.
More than 20,000 hectares of forest is on fire in the Nordic country. In a normal year, Sweden would expect wildfires to affect about 2,000 hectares in total, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency said on its website.
So far, there have been no reports of deaths or injuries.
It is Sweden’s worst drought since 1944 and after a very cold winter, pasture has failed to grow to provide enough grazing for livestock. Despite emergency imports of fodder, cattle and sheep are having to be slaughtered to avoid death by starvation.
Sweden was not alone in being unprepared for this hot weather. Norway, Finland and western Russia have all experienced unusually hot-and-dry conditions.
Murmansk, on Russia’s Kola Peninsula near the Arctic Circle, on Thursday registered 32 degrees Celsius, 17 degrees above normal. It was not quite a record, but only short by 0.7C.
Bardufoss, on Norway‘s northern coast, was 33.5C on Wednesday – a new July temperature record that beat the old one by nearly 2C.
Thursday was characterised by thunderstorms which, rather than providing useful quenching rain, are likely to start more fires with lightning strikes. Thunderstorms will occur throughout the weekend, but the hot weather will persist.