Expected heatwave bugs water agency

The papers came over all summery this week, but they painted very different pictures of the months ahead.

Sunday’s Aftonbladet plastered its front pages with the ‘exclusive’ news that it’s going to be fabulously hot and sunny, while Svenska Dagbladet was more concerned with potential water shortages. Dagens Nyheter was gloomiest of all, predicting ‘a real year of ticks’ and an increase in cases of TBE, the brain disease spread by the little pests.

But first the good news. For the fourth time in two months, Aftonbladet staked its credibility on the forecasts of a German weather buff, Wolfgang Röder, who has “promised” that in July and August it will be 1-2°C warmer than usual across the whole of Sweden.

“I estimate that this forecast is 75-80% reliable,” he said.

According to Aftonbladet, “his method for making the long-term predictions is secret, but it’s partly based on weather statistics for the northern hemisphere going back decades.”

The first half of June will be “cold and miserable”, and he reckons there’s a 40% chance of rain on Midsummer Eve.

That will please Tahfin Yacoub, a water expert at the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), who told Svenska Dagbladet that the water table level in large areas of the country is between ten and thirty centimetres lower than normal.

“We really need more rain in the next couple of weeks or in June,” he said. “Otherwise we could have problems accessing ground water in the summer.”

Many residential areas have near-normal water-levels at the moment. But what concerns SMHI is the increased demand placed on private ground-water wells around people’s summer cottages throughout July and August. A report is expected in June which will identify with more certainty the areas facing the greatest shortages.

And if dry taps don’t put you off visiting the countryside this year, you might at least consider getting yourself vaccinated against Tick-Borne Encephalitis before you go.

Sunday’s DN reported that there is expected to be a significant increase in cases of the disease this year following the mild winter, and that the area around Stockholm will be worst hit. The risk is also high around Uppsala, Södermanland and Åland.

The most common disease from ticks is Borelia, which infects around 10,000 people each year. But as DN points out, “if you’re on guard and quickly pluck the tick off yourself, you have a good chance of avoiding the illness – and it can also be treated with antibiotics.”

TBE is a different bag of monkeys altogether. It’s a form of brain inflammation which can lead to serious disability, and the virus begins to spread through the body as soon as the tick bites. Over 100 people a year are infected in Sweden and of those, 40% suffer permanent brain damage.

Despite the warnings, only 200,000 Stockholmers are vaccinated against the disease. But Rolf Gustafson, a doctor of infectious diseases and director of Baxter, a company which sells the vaccination, told DN:

“People who are mostly in the city aren’t really at risk. They have no reason to be vaccinated.”

As a general precaution, people are advised to wear long-sleeved clothing and to avoid shorts and sandals when frolicking in high grass and wooded areas.