Observed cold season changes in a Fennoscandian fell area over the past three decades

Abstract

We studied trends and variability in snow and climate characteristics in 1978–2012 in the Värriötunturit fell area, northern Finland. Cold season changes were examined using long-term observational data on snow depths, meteorological data, large-scale climate indices, and reindeer herders’ experiences with difficult snow conditions. Snow depths declined, and temperatures increased significantly over the study period, with the largest changes observed in October–December and in April. Snow depths decreased particularly in forests at lower altitudes but not in treeless areas at higher altitudes. Interannual variability (but not the trends) in snow depths could be partially linked to large-scale climate indices. A majority of difficult reindeer grazing conditions were related to deep snow in the winter or spring. Our observations suggest that shortened duration of snow cover may facilitate reindeer grazing, whereas potentially more frequent formation of ice layers and mold growth on pastures in the future is disadvantageous for reindeer husbandry.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Värriö Subarctic Research Station, particularly Vesa Haataja for his kind help with providing the snow transect measurement data for this study. The Finnish Meteorological Institute provided climatological data. Anne Ollila and Sirpa Valkama at the Reindeer Herders’ Association helped us collect the local information on snow and foraging conditions for reindeer, which we warmly acknowledge. We thank four anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. SK was funded by the Academy of Finland (CLADINA; Project Number 128615) and the APRES sub-project of the Nordic Centre of Excellence Tundra. SR was funded by Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

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Correspondence to Sonja Kivinen.

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Kivinen, S., Rasmus, S. Observed cold season changes in a Fennoscandian fell area over the past three decades. AMBIO 44, 214–225 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-014-0541-8

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Northern Finland
  • Reindeer husbandry
  • Snow
  • Subarctic
  • Teleconnection