Upside down week sees snowy Australia, sweltering Finland

Caroline FloydMeteorologist

From one extreme to the other

A heat wave in Australia and snow in Russia might not strike you as unusual, but what about the other way around?

That's just what's been going on the past week in weather around the world, that saw kangaroos bounding through the snow and a high temperature of 32ºC recorded just short of the Arctic Circle.

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While June does mark the first month of winter in Australia, that doesn't typically mean the start of the snowy season for most of the country. A series of cold fronts and near-freezing temperatures swept up from the south through the early part of last week to bring snow as far north as Stanthorpe in southern Queensland, about 220 km west of Brisbane.

Despite its reputation for heat, snowfall in and of itself isn't unusual in Australia in the winter. Tasmania, which occupies an island off the southeast coast, and other parts of the highlands along the east coast have a regular snow season. Further north -- like in Stanthorpe -- snow is much less common. For comparison's sake, snow there is like snow in Florida; it happens, but it's definitely not a regular event, particularly not this early in the season. Average high temperatures in Queensland run around 20ºC this time of year.

This week's storm brought gale-force winds that halted ferry service in Sydney along with the unexpected snow day to a region that's seen snow only twice since 1984.

Australia recorded its hottest month on record in January. 2018 went into the history books as the third hottest year on record overall.

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A half a world away and a bit closer to home it's been a very different story, with temperatures climbing to 30 degrees and beyond a stone's throw away from the Arctic Circle.

Early May saw temperature soaring to near 30 degrees along the coast of the Arctic Ocean in Russia, and that trend continued last week as parts of Finland smashed high temperature records.

The town of Oulu in central Finland on the northern coast of the Bay of Bothnia hit 32.3ºC on Friday. Oulu sits at 65 degrees north latitude, just a degree shy of the Arctic Circle.

While heat began to ease in Finland on Saturday, the ridge was merely shifting west back into Russia, sending the city of Murmansk -- well inside the Arctic Circle -- into the 30s as well.

It's also an anomalous air from the south that's to blame for this heat although, of course, the south, in this case, refers to the Mediterranean and not Antarctica. A stagnant ridge of high pressure situated over eastern Russia has been drawing hot, dry air from the south repeatedly over the past month.

Last summer saw very similar conditions across the region, albeit not as early in the year. The 2018 heat wave was blamed for nearly 400 deaths in Finland, raising concerns among Finnish officials that similar events may be more common in the future.

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Sources: Bureau of Meteorology | BBC | ITV | Finnish Meteorological Institute |