Finland has a severe winter climate, similar to that of Alaska or the Yukon. By contrast the summers can be surprisingly warm, particularly in the south. At Helsinki, for example, the average July maximum temperature is 22 °C. In the north, beyond the Arctic Circle, the long duration of sunshine compensates to a degree for the northerly latitude.
The south and centre of the country is a low-lying land of pine forests and innumerable lakes. The north, or Finnish Lapland, is higher, but only along the north-western border with Norway do the hills rise above 3,000 feet. Off the south-west coast are hundreds of tiny islands and this is the mildest part of the country in winter, for the more open waters of the Baltic do not freeze as often as the Gulfs of Finland and Bothnia.
In the south and centre of the country the summers are as warm as those of Denmark and south Sweden. The winters are long and cold with snow lying for an average of between 90 and 120 days.
In the north of the country the snow cover lasts from mid-October until late April or mid-May. Here, in the brief Arctic summer, daytime temperatures may rise almost as high as in the south, and sunshine may average as much as 9-10 hours per day. The weather is changeable from day to day in all seasons however, for Finland is influenced to some extent by Atlantic weather disturbances.
Warm clothing is essential in the winter months and in severe weather there is a danger of frostbite, particularly in Arctic Finland, if suitable clothing is not worn. One indirect result of the summer climate is the swarms of gnats and mosquitoes which appear in the warm weather, particularly in the north.
Last updated: 17 December 2013