Tuesday October 26, 2021

Severe flood unlikely in Finland, but heatwaves on rise: Experts

Published : 26 Jul 2021, 01:16

Updated : 26 Jul 2021, 02:07

  DF Report by Lisa Koenig

File picture of flood in Finland in March 2020. DF Photo.

Hari Myllyniemi from the Freshwater Centre at Finnish Environment Institute brushed aside any catastrophic flood the likes of which recently happened in central European countries in Finland because of its topology.

In mountainous areas, water flows downstream much faster while in Finland, water spreads to flood plains.

“It was the speed of the stream that caused erosion and buildings to collapse and cut roads. In mountainous areas, water also rises much faster which makes the flood more dangerous,” Myllyniemi told the Daily Finland.

He says that floods caused by heavy rain are generally very difficult to forecast. “Flood is a natural phenomenon and it can’t be totally prevented. But the damage can be managed.”

Advancement in forecasting and warning systems can reduce the risk. Green infrastructure could also be expanded to absorb and store excess water.

Heikki Tuomenvirta, group leader of Seasonal and Climate Applications at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, agrees that floods rarely develop very fast in Finland because of the flat terrain. An exception could be ice jams or ice dams which can build up when chunks of ice clump together to block the flow of a river.

“In total, 22 areas have been identified in Finland which have significant flood risks. But monitoring the water normally allows timely warnings. Intense precipitation can also cause flooding in urban areas”, Tuomenvirta told the Daily Finland.

He said that it is too early to quantify the role of climate change for the particular flood event in central Europe.

“Data need to be collected, model simulations run and analyses done. But it is generally estimated that climate change will increase heavy precipitation in central and northern Europe,” Tuomenvirta said.

More significant for Finland’s future will be exceptionally protracted heatwaves like the recent one which covered larger areas than before, Myllyniemi said.

He sees it as an example of an extreme weather event induced by climate change. Statistics with the Finnish Meteorological Institute show that the countrywide mean temperature in June was the warmest on record in Finland, about 3.9°C above the average from 1981–2010.

Tuomenvirta says that Finland was the first country to prepare a national strategy for adaptation to climate change in 2005. The aim of the current adaptation plan is that the Finnish society has the capacity to manage the risks associated with climate change and adapt to climate changes.

“Despite many risks, some opportunities have also been identified. The implementation of plans is progressing irregularly in different sectors. It is necessary to understand how climate change impact around the world may impact Finland in its supply chain of food, raw material and commodities, trade, finance and so on,” Tuomenvirta said.

He says that possible risks are related to an increase in heatwaves, storm damage, the reduction of soil frost or flooding. The lengthening of seasons is, on the other hand, an example of both positive and negative development as it increases agricultural production but also brings risks of new diseases and pests.

“A planned adaptation has clear advantages over reactive adaptation as many adaptation decisions and actions are more beneficial. In the building sector, for example, many investments are partially locked for decades,” Tuomenvirta said.