Tag Archives: finland

Remains found in 1,000-year-old lavish burial in Finland may be of nonbinary warrior

Artistic reconstruction of the Suontaka Vesitorninmäki burial. Credit: Veronika Paschenko.

In 1968, archaeologists found an unusual medieval grave at Suontaka Vesitorninmäki, southern Finland, where they found the remains of a high-status warrior, alongside a sword, brooches, and woolen clothes typical of feminine fashion of the era. The burial contents indicated that the remains belonged to a female warrior, challenging strict gender roles rooted in modern, Western mindsets. But it turns out the burial is even more unusual. More recent DNA analysis suggests that the remains belong to a nonbinary person with a rare genetic condition.

“The overall context of the grave indicates that it was a respected person whose gender identity may well have been non-binary,” researchers at the University of Turku in Finland wrote in a study published in the European Journal of Archaeology.

For decades, the grave dated at 1050-1300 A.D. has been used as a popular example of powerful women from early medieval societies, casting doubt over the notion that medieval Scandinavia was a purely macho environment. But the full story is perhaps even more intriguing.

For most archaeological finds, the gender of buried individuals has been determined based on grave goods and the development of osteology. However, this binary classification may be prone to error.

The exquisite sword buried alongside the potentially non-binary person. Credit:  The Finnish Heritage Agency.

The Finnish researchers went through the original field documentation once more and conducted a microscopic study of animal hair and fiber remains from the soil retrieved from the grave. They also sequenced ancient DNA from the skeletal remains to unequivocally determine the sex of the buried individual by looking at the chromosomes.

Females have two X chromosomes in their cells, while males have one X and one Y chromosome in their cells. However, the DNA from Suontaka doesn’t fall into either category.

According to the DNA tests, the person buried there had an extra X chromosome. This suggests that the person was anatomically male but had Klinefelter syndrome, a rare condition in which cells have XXY chromosomes.

People with Klinefelter, which affects about 1 in 660 males, have enlarged breasts, infertility, low testosterone, and a small penis.

“The individual could have been a respected member of a community because of their physical and psychological differences from the other members of that community; but it is also possible that the individual was accepted as a non-binary person because they already had a distinctive or secured position in the community for other reasons; for example, by belonging to a relatively wealthy and well-connected family,” the researchers wrote. 

As a caveat, the researchers note that the DNA sample they used was small and during the sequencing, they were only able to analyze a small number of nucleotides. To fill in the gaps, the researchers performed mathematical modeling to assess chromosomal DNA. As such, the Klinefelter syndrome diagnosis may be erroneous. Perhaps the individual was truly a warrior woman. Alternatively, the Finnish archaeologists speculate the individual may have been a male shaman, whose woman’s clothing may have been deemed socially acceptable given the Norse god Odin’s association with feminine magic.

Nevertheless, this is an exciting study showing that contemporary debates surrounding gender and identity were perhaps also prevalent during the early medieval era.

Credit: Pxhere.

Finland’s universal basic income experiment made people happier, but didn’t land them a job

Credit: Pxhere.

Credit: Pxhere.

Two years ago, the Finnish government kicked off an ambitious universal basic income (UBI) experiment in which a group of 2,000 randomly selected unemployed citizens were given a monthly income — no strings attached. Each person was allowed to use the money as he or she saw fit. The announcement made the news all over the world, with critics suggesting that “something for nothing” will lead to no good while supporters argued that a universal income that covers the basic necessities of life helps people train and prepare for more fulfilling jobs. Now, the results are in. One thing’s for sure — they haven’t been spectacular.

The program introduced by the Social Insurance Institution (Kela), which ran from January 2017 until December 2018, offered a flat monthly payment of €560 ($634). One of the desired outcomes was to improve unemployment, which sits at a rate of 8.1% nationwide. While some of the participants found jobs during this period, the UBI’s contribution was not significant compared to a control.

What can’t be denied about the UBI experiment is that it made the participants happier and less stressed. According to the preliminary results, 55% of the recipients of basic income reported that their state of health was good or very good, while 46% of the control group said the same. People who had a basic income also reported a higher trust and confidence in other people, the government, and in their future prospects for work.

“Our results weren’t that surprising as it kind of confirms what we know from other pilots,” said Minna Ylikännö, who is a lead researcher at Kela. “People’s wellbeing is enhanced when they have some kind of financial security. They feel secure, so they feel better – that’s something which we see in other countries too, not just a Finnish experience.”

At this point, it’s challenging to conclude whether this experiment was a success or a failure. At the end of the day, it depends on how you look at it. It’s also not helpful to draw broad conclusions from the Finnish study. For one, it only involved individuals registered as unemployed. The payment was also rather modest, compared to the country’s average gross monthly wage of €3,380. Seeing how the experiment only lasted for two years, there may be some long-lasting effects which might be only evident five or ten years from now — that’s something a study in the future will have to investigate.

In any case, this wasn’t the first universal income experiment. One of the first was launched in the 1970s, in Manitoba, Canada, resulting in a decline in doctor visits and an 8.5% in the rate of hospitalization. Elsewhere, three provinces in the Netherlands, along with other studies in India, Italy, and Kenya have their own pilot programs currently underway. So, there is still much to learn from these social experiments.

“Even with these experiments, it’s very difficult to say anything conclusive about basic income,” Ylikännö told Wired. “Whatever experiments we do – we’re working in a society where people behave very unexpectedly. In order to know what basic income’s effects will be, we have to implement it.”

These were just preliminary results. Researchers are still busy combing through all the data, so different patterns and interesting observations might appear next year when the final report is due.

Finland’s 100-year gift to itself: a beautiful, futuristic, and free library

Finland just celebrated its Centenary with an amazing and very useful gift to itself: a state-of-the-art library called Oodi — Finnish for “ode.”

Image credits: Tuomas Uushei.

All countries like to sing odes to themselves — but they do it in different ways. Finland, arguably the most literate and educated country in the world, chose to do it with a new “living room for the nation”, as they call.

Helsinki’s new central library just opened, after being in planning for about two decades. It celebrates the centenary of Finland’s independence after breaking free from Russia in 1917. The huge building consists of mostly wood and glass and sits in a prime, central location, right in front of the Finnish Parliament.

Image credits: ALA Architects.

While the emphasis is, as always, on books, having a nice place to read in also helps. In addition to its minimalist and very pleasant design, the facility also features studios for music and video production, a cinema, and workshops containing 3D printers and laser cutters, all free of charge for the public.

“Finland is a country of readers,” declared the country’s UK ambassador Päivi Luostarinen recently, and it’s hard to disagree with him. At a time where most libraries in the world are struggling with funding and readership, Finland’s trends stand in stark opposition. They are well-used, accessible, and more often than not — quite resourceful. With the addition of Oodi, there are now 730 public libraries in Finland, a country of 5.5 million people.

Image credits: ALA Architects.

The library is also dedicated to a sustainable and egalitarian future — everyone can borrow books from a library, making the institution a great equalizer. These values, while constantly attacked in countries like the US and UK, are harbored in Finland, and brilliantly exhibited at Oodi.

As a child, Nasima Razmyar, the daughter of a former Afghan diplomat and the current deputy mayor of Helsinki, struggled to make sense of what seemed to be a very strange city. But she was surprised to see that even as a child, she was entitled to a card that would offer her access to books, for free.

“A library card was the first thing that was mine, that I had ever owned,” she says. “I think Finland could not have given a better gift to the people. It symbolizes the significance of learning and education, which have been fundamental factors for Finland’s development and success.”

The library will also feature several innovations, indicating that libraries are most certainly not a thing of the past — they can still play a vital role in a society’s future.

Image credits: Tuomas Uusheimo.

For instance, the building will feature a fleet of book-carrying robots — not humanoid robots, but rather grey wagons that will travel in and out of lifts, avoiding people and furniture, bringing the returned books to the correct bookcase, where a human member of staff will place them back on the shelf. It’s a similar technology to what’s currently being trialed in self-driving cars.

Oodi will also have quiet areas for studying, but all other rooms will not have a “silence” rule, as is common in most libraries. The library will also have a dedicated area (a “nerd loft”) where people of all ages can get together and create different projects — and in that area, creating noise and (creative) mess will be encouraged. Of course, users will also able to use the library workshops, which feature state-of-the-art equipment, as well as borrow musical instruments or even play console games.

“We are prepared to constantly have discussions with the users and the staff about what behaviour is welcome in the library, but it’s definitely a place of noise and all sorts of improvised activities,” Helsinki’s head of library services, Ms Katri Vanttinen, said.

Image credits: Tuomas Uusheimo.

Vanttinen is also proud of the decision to keep children and adult books together. However, the architects were also careful to design the rooms in such a way that they are never overcrowded or too noisy.

“We think that the noise the children bring into this floor is positive noise, we hear the future, and we enjoy that we have children’s and adult literature on the same floor with no walls in between,” Ms. Vanttinen said. “Acoustics have been planned really well, so even if people are shouting at one end you can hardly hear them at the other end,” she added.

Credits: ALA Architects.

In addition to boasting one of the best educational systems in the world and a thriving economy, Finland was also named the happiest in the world by the United Nations, just earlier this year. Perhaps there’s something to learn from them.

“Oodi sits in the heart of Helsinki, surrounded by the institutions of a modern liberal democracy – the national parliament, the free press, the arts and museums. Our hope is that this palace of ideas will bring people and institutions together and enable new interactions, experiences and understanding that will lead us to achievements that are greater than any of us could achieve on our own,” Razmyar concludes.

War relics become valuable heritage in Finland

For some Finns, piles of rusting metal from World War II have a special significance.

The war relics stand in stark opposition to Lapland’s pristine nature. Image credits: Oula Seitsonen.

 

Finland’s involvement in WWII was rather unusual. Initially, they sided up with Nazi Germany, leading to what is called the Winter War — where Finland fought against Soviet Russia. Despite having only 32 tanks against Russia’s 6,000, and 114 aircraft compared to almost 4,000 Soviet units, the Finns held their ground. In Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region, there were more German troops and prisoners of various nationalities than local inhabitants.

But when Finland struck a cease-fire with the Soviets in 1944, war broke between the one-time allies, and Germany had to retreat. As they did so, the Germans left behind hundreds of tons of war material in various states of repair. Everything from tractors and gun carriages to bottles of alcohol and canned food was left behind, and many can still be found in Lapland. In the country’s blistering cold, this war junk was left in stark opposition to the pristine nature.

But for locals, this isn’t really the case.

Surprisingly, locals — who see themselves as the custodians of their own history — want to control outsider access to wartime and other cultural heritage sites. They cherish these remnants of the distant war as their own history, disliking the dismissive attitude that the Finnish government exhibits towards them.

To them, these traces are a symbol of the differences between north and south Finland, as well as the marginalization of the north. They are the relics of their own past, and they don’t want to get rid of them.

“The differences between approaches to German relics from the Second World War seem to originate from fundamental differences between worldviews and the manners in which landscape is interpreted,” says archaeologist Oula Seitsonen.

“Those who advocate clearing Lapland’s environment of ‘war junk’ appear to perceive the subject from a ‘western’ perspective, drawing a line between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’. This viewpoint also labels the historical cultural landscape of the region as empty, natural wilderness, whereas the northern concept of nature does not differentiate between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’. Instead, landscape with its various layers forms a whole that ties together the past, the present and the future.”

In her doctoral studies, Seitsonen carries out the first comprehensive and informed study of the archaeology and heritage of the material remnants of German troops in Finnish Lapland.

She believes that these objects can be turned into touristic objectives, generating additional income for the locals, as well as raising awareness about their culture. At the very least, she says, these objects should be classified, studied, and understood in a local context, before they disintegrate into nothingness. They represent not only a local value, but also sites and events that people actually remember — including traumatic events.

“Personally, I would like to see the wartime materiel documented on some level before it decomposes entirely. Then again, the slow merging of wartime structures and objects with nature creates a special atmosphere at these sites, emphasizing their role as part of the local cultural landscape. The significance of war-related sites as part of the long cultural continuum of the region is underlined by supernatural stories and experiences associated with them. For one, they portray the sites as locales of memory and remembering, including related, unprocessed traumas,” Seitsonen said.

Remains of a German POW camp. Image credits: Oula Seitsonen.

In a broader sense, this raises an important question about heritage and culture. What exactly is heritage? Is it necessarily something nice or esthetically pleasing? That’s hardly the case. Heritage is a form of cultural legacy, and it has the value people attribute to it. If the people of Lapland believe WWII relics are their heritage, we should appreciate and cherish that — and why not, learn the stories that they can tell us. I don’t know about you, but hiking through pristine woods and discovering the stories (and tragedies) that unfolded there sounds like an interesting pastime.

Sawdust.

Finnish project aims to turn sawdust into fish food and tackle world hunger

World hunger intuitively sounds like something you’d solve by growing more food — but a research project is trying to address it with sawdust. Dubbed MonoCell, the project aims to turn the waste material into single-cell protein to form an inexpensive base for fish feed.

Sawdust.

Image credits Andrea Micca.

Food insecurity is already a problem, one bound to become more pressing as populations increase around the globe. The UN estimates that the Earth will house roughly two billion more people by 2050, and some 4.5 billion more by 2100. That’s a lot of extra mouths to feed. Compounding the problem is that our planet won’t get any bigger, meaning we’ll have less and less arable land available to feed each one of us. While improving technology and know-how is driving production figures up, we’re running out of arable land per capita — we’ve been doing so for a long time now.

Arable land per capita.

Evolution of arable land per capita (global figures) between 1961 (0.371 ha) and 2014 (0.195 ha).
Chart via The World Bank / Food and Agriculture Organization.

It’s not hard to see why people are concerned about food insecurity looming in the future. In an effort to secure new sources of food for future generations, a research project from Luke (Luonnonvarakeskus, Finland’s natural resource institute) led by PhD Risto Korpinen is looking to turn sawdust into fish feed.

Dust to bass

Korpinen is leading a project dubbed MonoCell — High-quality single cell protein for fish feed. It’s pretty descriptive, as far as names go, aiming to turn sawdust into usable protein for fish farms. The idea of supping on wood isn’t new in Finland. During a famine in the 19th century, the Finns took to making bread out of pine bark — an idea they re-used during their civil war of 1918.

This project, however, is a bit more refined. The team hopes to take what’s essentially waste material, available in many countries around the world, and turn it into a viable source of fish food. If successful, such technology would also help take the pressure off of the agricultural sector and wild fish stocks — which are currently supplying fish feed — curbing an increasingly unsustainable practice and preventing further ecological damage from these industries.

“There has been a lot of discussion about the challenges that food production has to face in the future. That is also one of the reasons why I came up with this idea”, Korpinen explains.

“The use of wild fish in feeding has led to the collapse of global fish stocks,” he says, adding that Finland is relying heavily on imported soy-based feed, and “is lacking a sustainable domestic option for fish feed.”

Korpinen is very familiar with sawdust. His master’s degree from the Åbo Akademi University in Turku, Finland, pertained to making cellulose out of this material. His background determined him to look into the possibility of turning sawdust into food especially since it’s not a readily-edible material.

“We could do these same things with potato or corn starch too, but starch can also feed humans,” he explains. “In the US they make bioethanol out of starch, even though there are plenty of people in the world suffering from hunger. It just goes against my morals to use food in fuel production.”

Korpinen is confident that the wood-derived feed has a real chance of being an economic hit. Pulp mills already have to dispose of the sawdust somehow, and already have the infrastructure to “establish protein production units on their properties,” he explains.

Protein from Wood.

There are quite a few steps involved in the process.
Image via Luonnonvarakeskus / Luke.

These could help the businesses derive an extra profit from what’s essentially waste material, and may yield other benefits from circulating not just “materials, water and chemicals but also energy, like electricity and steam.” The process would also solve a problem Finnish sawmills are faced with in particular: right now, their sawdust can be used to make biofuels, but the country’s energy policy is virtually barring them from the market.

Finland subsidizes the use of forest chips (which are imported) as a source of energy, but these subsidies do not extend to domestic sawdust. As such, local sawmills have a lot of sawdust on their hands that they simply can’t get rid of, and like pulp mills, stand to gain from MonoCell program. In fact, one private company has already agreed to test-run their sawmill-to-protein process.

 

“We also hope to find partners from the producers of animal feed. But first we have to do the research and clarify the costs and material use.”

The team conducted the first few experiments of the program this August. Turning sawdust into protein is a complex process that includes several stages, however, so there’s still a long way to go. Luckily, some of the procedures involved are fairly familiar to the team as they’ve been used in past projects. They hope to conclude the research by the autumn of 2017.

Korpinen will mainly be working on the first stages on the project, as he is the lead researcher and the one conducting the initial experiments. After that, the team — consisting of ten researchers from all over Finland — will mostly take over and expand on his results. It consists of members with varied areas of expertise, including food and nutrition experts, and at the end will perform a life cycle analysis to find out “how much energy and chemicals have been used in the whole process”, Korpinen explains.

 

Sweden's port of Lulea risks getting too shallow for ships because sea levels around it are dropping. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Why sea levels around Finland and Sweden are dropping while the rest of the world is drowning

Sweden's port of Lulea risks getting too shallow for ships because sea levels around it are dropping. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Sweden’s port of Lulea risks getting too shallow for ships because sea levels around it are dropping. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

One of the biggest consequences of man-made climate change is sea level rise. On average, sea levels are rising at a rate of more than 3 millimeters (mm) a year, bearing serious repercussions for human health and the economy, particularly in coastal regions which are most vulnerable. And because our planet isn’t a bathtub, in some places the sea level is rising two or three times faster than average. For instance, by 2030 sea levels could be 431 mm (17 inches) higher, with the highest rise at Mayport, Fernandina Beach, and Daytona Beach. People living around China’s Yellow River delta are swamped by sea level rise of more than 250 mm (9 inches) a year.

Sea levels aren’t rising everywhere, though. In fact, in some places like Scandinavia, they’re dropping.

Namely, Finland and Sweden’s landmass is rising by 3 to 9 mm each year due to a geological process known as the post-glacial uplift, which started 10,000 years ago when the last Ice Age ended. And although it may look like these Scandinavian countries have nothing to worry about, sea level drop is causing all sorts of problems.

But first, a few words about what’s causing this peculiar drop in sea level while the rest of the world seems to be drowning.

A rubber mattress

Some 50 miles below our feet lies a viscous layer thousands of miles thick known as the mantle — the thickest layer of the Earth. On top of the mantle, tectonic plates float like a cake on a pudding. If you put some more sweets atop of the cake, it will start sinking into the pudding. Likewise, more weight on the crust, such as billions of tons of ice that collect during an ice age, will cause it to sink more into the mantle. Now displaced, the mantle will bulge elsewhere. When the extra weight is gone, such as in the aftermath of an ice age when all those excess glaciers melt, the mantle rebounds — it still does to this day after thousands of year. It’s much like a foam rubber mattress, in the sense that it takes a while to return to its original shape.

This post-glacial uplift is what’s overly compensating for sea level rise around the Scandinavian coastline and locals are plainly aware of this fact. “The conditions for sea transportation in the area is getting more tricky,” says Sven Knutsson, professor of soil mechanics at Lulea University of Technology, told journalist Jon Bjarki Magnusson.

For instance, the port of Lulea located in northern Sweden is getting shallower which is causing problems for larger ships attempting to enter the port, problems that were non-existing 40 years ago. Since then, the land has risen by about half a meter. In one spot, Sweden’s coastline has risen 300 meters since the Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago. Local authorities are investing about $208 million to deepen the harbor.

The uplift is also ruining Swedish lakes. Once pristine and crystal clear, many of Sweden’s shallower lakes are now becoming murky and muddy as more and more grass grows around them. There’s not much to do in this case as any attempt to deepen the lakes simply makes no economic sense.

In Western Finland, ironically, the sea level drop is causing floods. Because the crust is rising non-uniformly, namely faster by the coastline than further east, rivers have become tilted. During the spring when Finland’s big rivers are packed with meltwater, the surroundings get flooded.

On the flipside, at least these countries are getting bigger. It’s estimated the uplift is helping Finland gain 700 hectares of land every year as its western coastline is gradually rising. Theoretically, this newly surfaced land is owned by the state but owners who have adjacent land can claim it. Already, there are feuds between residents with some ending in court.

Of course, all of these problems aren’t nearly as bad as the threats faced by people living in coastal areas all over the world.  Sea levels are rising at an increasing rate each year and as the planet heats more, as it does today, this rate will only accelerate. Sea levels are rising 50% faster than they did two decades ago, according to a recent 2017 study which attributed the acceleration to Greenland’s melting ice sheet. If this trend continues, Scandinavian countries but also other places like Scottland could actually see the sea level fall by as much as 50 meters.

Solar could supply up to 80% of domestic heating demand in northern latitude countries

Solar thermal collectors on the roof of a Finnish home. Credit: Aalto University.

Finnish researchers at Aalto University claim renewable energy could be used to cover 53–81% of the annual domestic heating in the frosty country. The results are considered valid for Scandinavian countries but, in principle, could apply to other locations at the same latitudes, keeping in mind local conditions.

In the European Union, heating takes up the most energy in a household, around 40 percent. In Finland, where average temperatures range from – 22 to -3°C in its coldest months or even down to -50°C in the northern part of the country, heating accounts for more than 80% of a household’s total energy use. Finland’s vision is to become a carbon-neutral society by 2050.

Finland — a country that warms twice as fast than the global average – has a vision of becoming a carbon-neutral society by 2050. The plan is to have 60 percent of its energy use covered by renewable sources by then. Coal is to be scrapped entirely by 2030. Right now, the country employs a diverse basket of energy sources like nuclear power, natural gas, coal, oil, peat, hydropower, and wood-based fuels.

Solar is the least represented energy source in Finland but is growing fast thanks to a drop in prices for solar panels. Finland’s total PV capacity rose from 11.2 to 14.7 MW in 2015, marking a 33% year-to-year growth.

Traditional use of oil or wood-based burners for heating water and the living space is still common, though, which is why the Finnish government is looking towards renewable energy to meet its emission reduction targets.

One might think that Finland will never become a solar energy-intensive country seeing how its polar nights during the winter never stop. But remember Finland is also called the Land of the Midnight Sun where nature replies with 24 hours of full-blown sunlight in the summer. And contrary to popular belief, solar performance isn’t deteriorated by cold weather. On the contrary, panels are significantly more efficient in cold weather and clean, dustless surroundings, as seen in Finland. Finland has about the same amount of annual insolation as northern Germany, a country which has proven itself as a solar energy powerhouse. As long as you have means to store all that sunshine for the gritty winter months, Finland can count on solar — and that’s not just for electricity but heating also.

Unlike PV panels that collect electrons generated by photons hitting semiconducting materials, solar heating works by using the sun’s thermal energy to heat fluid (water or air) in solar collectors. Researchers at Aalto University led by Professor Kai Sirén run the numbers to see just how much Finland can rely on solar for heating its homes.

The results were extremely encouraging suggesting Finns have enough sunlight to ditch oil or wood burners in favor of solar thermal collectors.

“Solar energy offers economically sensible solutions for the collection of energy for this purpose, and for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, especially in southern Finland where the majority of the population lives,”  Sirén said.

 

Scientific Reference: Hassam ur Rehman, Janne Hirvonen, Kai Sirén: A long-term performance analysis of three different configurations for community-sized solar heating systems in high latitudes. Renewable Energy 113 (2017) 479-493. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2017.06.017

The Lampivaara amethyst mine in Finland. Here, the average winter temperature is around minus 4 C and can drop to minus 30 C. Image: Pajaratorio Flickr

Finland is warming twice as fast than the rest of the planet

Finnish researchers analyzed meteorological data gathered over the past 166 years and found the country’s average monthly temperatures have increased by more than 2 degrees Celsius. Over the same period, the rest of the planet has warmed by only 0.8 degrees C on average. Overall, Finland and other sub-Arctic countries are warming at double the rate of the world’s global warming.

The fastest warming country in the world

The Lampivaara amethyst mine in Finland. Here, the average winter temperature is around minus 4 C and can drop to minus 30 C. Image: Pajaratorio Flickr

The Lampivaara amethyst mine in Finland. Here, the average winter temperature is around minus 4 C and can drop to minus 30 C. Image: Pajaratorio Flickr

The fact that global warming affects the Northern Hemisphere more than the rest of the planet is well known, but this extreme rate may surprise some. In 1896, the Swedish chemist Svante August Arrhenius was the first to propose that changing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere would lead to more temperature variability in the poles.

Some of you might find it ironic that the iciest places in the world are warming the fastest, though. Once you delve into it, however, it soon becomes elementary. Ice acts like an insulating cover, reflecting sunlight and keeping the water below cold. In more technical terms, losing sea ice reduces Earth’s albedo: the lower the albedo, the more a surface absorbs heat from sunlight rather than reflecting it back to space. Nowadays, the newly ice-free parts of the ocean take in much more heat than they used to during the summer, and once air temperatures fall this extra heat is released during the autumn and winter. The higher atmospheric temperatures lead to even more ice melt and prevent new ice from forming, creating a feedback loop.

“You would expect that the temperatures in the north would be rising faster than the global average,” said Ari Laaksonen, a professor in the Department of Applied Physics at the University of Eastern Finland and a co-author of the study. “But [researchers] expected a rate that was 50 percent faster; Finland’s temperature is rising by almost 100 percent.”

In order to find out how  average monthly temperatures had changed from 1847 to 2013, the researchers used an advanced statistical time series approach to figure out what changes in temperature were due to natural variability and what changes represented a long-term trend. Also, because in the mid XIXth century there weren’t that many weather stations the researchers also used measurements collected by neighboring stations in  Sweden, Norway and Russia.

Over the past 166 years, monthly temperatures have increased by more than 2 degrees Celsius in Finland. Since  the rate of warming increased from 0.2 to 0.4 C per decade after the 1960s, when the effects of the massive energy boom following WWII could be seen, this suggests that the warming is predominantly man-made.

All the measurements are consistent with data collected in the past 135 years at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). Researchers at NASA found an average increase in temperature of 0.93 C for the Northern Hemisphere, while countries at latitudes around 60 degrees north or above had an average temperature increase of 1.8 C. Why Finland registered a 2.0 C warming, thus making it the fastest warming country in the world, may be due to a more refined view made by the Finish researchers.

Finland on track to offer high speed internet to all its inhabitants

Finland is definitely one of the countries leading the technological development in numerous fields; the latest in their plans is to offer high speed internet to ALL of its inhabitants by no later than 2015.

“The target set by the government will be reached on schedule, or even ahead of it,” the ministry said in a statement.

The government plans to offer connections of at least 100 Mb per second to everybody… but… doesn’t Finland have any homeless people ?