Research Articles

Quantifying temporal changes in Tornionjoki river ice breakup dates and spring temperatures in Lapland since 1802

  • 1. Finnish Forest Research Institute, Rovaniemi Northern Unit, 96300, Finland;
    2. Training Centre of China Meteorological Administration, Beijing 100081, China;
    3. Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki P. O. Box 140, 00251, Finland;
    4. Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Helsinki P. O. Box 64, 00014, Finland
Samuli Helama (1974-), Ph.D and Adjuct Professor, specialized in time-series analysis of natural records. E-mail:

Received date: 2012-09-17

  Revised date: 2013-04-29

  Online published: 2013-11-14

Supported by

Academy of Finland, No.251441; The Project of Ministry of Finance, No.GYHY200706005; Kone Foundation (Finland)


Cryophenological records (i.e. observational series of freeze and breakup dates of ice) are of great importance when assessing the environmental variations in cold regions. Here we employed the extraordinarily long observational records of river ice breakup dates and air temperatures in northern Fennoscandia to examine their interrelations since 1802. Historical observations, along with modern data, comprise the informational setting for this analysis carried out using t-test. Temperature history of April-May season was used as climatic counterpart for the breakup timings. Both records (temperature and breakup) showed seven sub-periods during which their local means were distinctly different relative to preceding and subsequent sub-periods. The starting and ending years of these sub-periods occurred in temporal agreement. The main findings of this study are summarized as follows: (1) the synchrony between the temperature and river ice breakup records ruled out the possibility that the changes would have occurred due to quality of the historical series (i.e. inhomogeneity problems often linked to historical time-series); (2) the studied records agreed to show lower spring temperatures and later river ice breakups during the 19th century, in comparison to the 20th century conditions, evidencing the prevalence of cooler spring temperatures in the study region, in agreement with the concept of the Little Ice Age (1570-1900) climate in North-West Europe; (3) the most recent sub-period demonstrate the highest spring temperatures with concomitantly earliest river ice breakups, showing the relative warmth of the current springtime climate in the study region in the context of the past two centuries; (4) the effects of anthropogenic changes in the river environment (e.g. construction and demolition of dams) during the 20th century should be considered for non-climatic variations in the breakup records; (5) this study emphasizes the importance of multi-centurial (i.e. historical) cryophenological information for highly interesting viewpoints of climate and environmental history.

Cite this article

Samuli HELAMA, Jianmin JIANG, Johanna KORHONEN, Jari HOLOPAINEN, Mauri TIMONEN . Quantifying temporal changes in Tornionjoki river ice breakup dates and spring temperatures in Lapland since 1802[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2013 , 23(6) : 1069 -1079 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-013-1063-1


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