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Record Warm Winter for Northern Europe

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP)
Image: Coastal ice melts in the city of Longyearbyen, in Norway's Svalbard Islands, on Feb. 27, 2008. Record-high temperatures have left people here wondering whether the melting ice is all a fluke in the fluctuating weather system, or a troubling sign of a warming world. (AP Photo/John McConnico)

RECORD WARM WINTER for Northern Europe - Winter ended before it started in Europe's north, where RECORD-HIGH TEMPERATURES have people wondering whether it's a fluke or an ominous sign of a warming world. "It's the warmest winter ever" recorded." In December, January and February, the average temperature in Stockholm was 36 degrees — the HIGHEST ON RECORD SINCE RECORD-KEEPING BEGAN IN 1756. RECORD WINTER HIGHS were set at 12 other locations across the country. Across the Baltic Sea, Latvia and most of Finland reported the WARMEST WINTER SINCE 1925. Latvia saw an average temperature of about 33 degrees, nine degrees above normal. Southern Finland had only 20 days of snow, compared to 70 days normally, while neighboring Estonia had to cancel a popular cross-country ski marathon in the southern city of Tartu in early February. "I don't remember winter like this. We had almost no snow at all in February." "It's been emotionally very stressful, especially to many older people, that it's dark and rainy all the time." In Norway, the average temperature in February was the second highest on record, 8 degrees above normal. Experts are careful not to blame global warming, noting that a warm winter could be followed by a cold one. The Finnish Meteorological Institute said the mild winter partly resulted from strong southerly and westerly air currents caused by EXCEPTIONALLY warm surface temperatures of the Atlantic. In areas normally covered in snow and ice, spring-like temperatures have brought premature sightings of flowers such as winter aconite, snowdrops, wood anemone, daffodils and coltsfoot. Migratory birds have returned from southern latitudes prematurely. In southern Sweden, they never left. The warm weather also has stirred life inside the vast forests of the Nordic and Baltic countries, where insects such as ants and ticks emerged early from winter shelter. In Lithuania, logging companies say many dirt roads were impassable because they were thick with mud instead of frozen, leaving timber rotting in the damp forests. Both Finland and Sweden have left most of their icebreakers in port. Finland's coasts are clear of ice up to 350 miles north of Helsinki. "It's MOST UNUSUAL because now the whole sea should be frozen along the Finnish coast." "Hard frosts and heavy blizzards have always been a bane of rail traffic. This winter has been punctuated by their absence." For winter sports enthusiasts, the green winter has been a nightmare. Small ski resorts around Stockholm never opened, and skating enthusiasts waited in vain for ice to form on the waterways surrounding the Swedish capital. "There's not one millimeter of ice." While Europe's north has been unseasonably warm, the west has been sunny and dry. France HAS NOT HAD SUCH A SUNNY WINTER SINCE 1950. In Portugal, rainfall from September to January was the LOWEST FOR 91 years. The cold is making a late comeback in some areas. All of Finland is blanketed in snow, and forecasts predict at least another week of wintry weather with heavy blizzards and frost.

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