Climate

Given its northern location, the Finnish climate is surprisingly mild. The winters are, of course, long and dark and the Finnish summers are short and bright. In northern Finland, the polar night, known as "kaamos," lasts 52 days and winter temperatures can fall to -40°C and even -50°C. The aurora or northern lights, known locally as revontulet, are visible on most clear winter nights. The brief summer, on the other hand, can produce occasional temperatures in excess of +30°C and the sun does not set for over a month. In the Oulu region at around latitude 65° N, the coldest two months are January and February, with a daily mean temperature of around -12°C, while in Helsinki, Finland's capital city at latitude 60° N, the corresponding value is -6°C. The average summer temperatures of the two cities are 15°C and 16°C, respectively. The Finnish lakes freeze over regularly and so does the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia. Cars may then cross from the mainland on ice roads to offshore islands, for example, from Oulu to the island of Hailuoto, but icebreakers keep the main ports open and important ferry routes operational even throughout the winter. The Gulf of Finland also frequently freezes over, but to a lesser extent than the Gulf of Bothnia. Spring, which arrives in the south of Finland during the month of April, in the Oulu region during mid-May, and in northern Finland not until mid-June, is short, but spectacular. Although early summer tends to be the drier season; within days the landscape turns green and fresh growth emerges from under the melting snow. Rainfall is heaviest in late summer toward the end of the growing season, but severe storms are rare in Finland. Autumn frosts can arrive in the north in August itself, but in southern Finland do not become common until late October or November. Not surprisingly, snow cover reaches its greatest thickness in the north and east of the country. Permafrost is restricted to small areas in the far north of the country and higher altitudes.

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