Extreme water levels in Sweden’s far north

Water levels are rising rapidly in the Sangis river in Norrbotten, in northern Sweden, and meteorological institute SMHI has now issued their highest warning, Class 3, for the area.

Extreme water levels in Sweden's far north

A Class 3 warning means there is a risk of flooding, and of danger to the public. This is the most severe warning that SMHI can issue.

Rolf Kummus lives in Asmasjärvi, just outside Övertorneå. Normally his house is 65 metres away from the water.

On Saturday, the river was lapping at his land, just 20 or 30 metres from his main house. Some of the eight houses on his land had already been reached by the water.

“One cabin is at risk right now. The boarding is beneath water levels, and in the sauna there’s something like 10 centimetres of water. We’ve taken out the electricity to avoid a short circuit,” said Rolf Kummu to news agency TT.

The water levels are extremely high, the highest in living memory, according to SMHI’s hydrologist Kean Foster.

“This is a very serious situation, and there’s a lot of water coming into the river right now,” he told TT.

Water flow rates in the Sangis river are around 15 cubic metres per second, according to SMHI. Right now nearly 56 cubic metres of water are flowing every second.

A Class 3 warning is issued perhaps one or two times per century.

Waters levels are also high on the nearby Torne and Råne rivers, and SMHI has issued a Class 2 warning in these areas.

Erik Karlsson is a fireman in Kalix municipality, but has a vacation home by Säivisnäs near the Sangis river’s mouth. According to him, water levels in the river are usually at their highest when the ice breaks and clogs up the river’s mouth.

“I’ve never experienced water levels this high after the ice melted,” said Karlsson to TT.

But the municipality’s emergency services are perplexed by SMHI’s water flow reports. Not a single call related to the high water levels has come in from those living in the Sangis area in the past couple of days.

“It’s been completely silent,” said chief of rescue operations Arto Koivumaa to TT.

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Climate crisis: The Italian cities worst affected by flooding and heatwaves

The climate crisis is causing serious problems for Italy's biggest cities and extreme weather events are going to become more frequent, according to a new report.

Climate crisis: The Italian cities worst affected by flooding and heatwaves
A file photo from November 12th, 2019 shows flooding during an exceptionally high 'acqua alta' in Venice.Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Anyone who was in Italy throughout this year’s long, hot summer may suspect that heatwaves are becoming a more frequent occurrence.

And residents of the lagoon city of Venice will no doubt be able to attest to the devastating impact of serious floods, as well as to the fact that such events appear to be becoming increasingly frequent.

In fact, a new study by the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC) has confirmed that the incidence rate of both heatwaves and floods in Italy has increased significantly – and is only expected to keep rising.

READ ALSO: From Venice to Mont Blanc, how is the climate crisis affecting Italy?

The report stated that average temperatures have risen overall in the last 30 years and continue to rise in all cities.

“Risks associated with climate change affect all Italian regions and their economic sectors,” the study’s authors stated. “Despite contrasts, with different areas being affected in different ways, there are no regions that can be considered immune from climate risks.”

The report found that the southern city of Naples had experienced the biggest increase in the frequency and severity of heatwaves.

Heatwaves fuelled the most destructive fire season to date in Italy this summer Photo: Nicolas TUCAT/AFP

The southern city has in recent years reported an average of 50 more intensely hot days per year than it did at the beginning of the century.

The same figure for Milan was +30 days, Turin +29 and Rome +28. 

Although extreme weather events have always existed and Italy is no stranger to intense heat, numerous studies have found that the climate crisis is making heatwaves more frequent and more dangerous.

Meanwhile, in Venice, over the last 150 years the relative water level of the city has risen by more than 30 centimeters, and the critical threshold has been exceeded 40 times in the last 10 years, the CMCC found..

The report also warned that the city of Bologna could expect to see an increase in the intensity and frequency of flooding in the future.

READ ALSO: Floods in Italy: What to do when there’s a weather warning

It added that “all scenarios” showed an increased risk of heatwaves and urban flooding in the coming years.

In 2019, Rome was found to be the city in Europe most at risk of flooding, according to water monitoring authorities.

“There are parts of Rome that can’t withstand a heavy downpour,” said the Central Apennines District Basin Authority.

Rome’s soft soil and famous hills make it naturally vulnerable to erosion and mudslides, while the authority said poorly maintained sewers, waste dumping and vegetation blocking the course of the Tiber and Aniene rivers were contributing to the flood risk.

Previous studies have also found that Rome suffered the highest number of extreme weather events overall in recent years.