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Inside Sweden: Why a repeat of the summer of 2018 scares me

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
Inside Sweden: Why a repeat of the summer of 2018 scares me
Kårböle, pictured, was one of the areas ravaged by wildfires in Sweden in 2018. Photo: Mats Andersson/TT

Drought, wildfires and emergency slaughter of livestock. Could another summer like the 2018 heatwave be in store for Sweden this year?



A lot of us have these years or dates that we associate with certain extreme weather events, the ones that really stick in your memory for some reason.

For my parents, it was the New Year's Eve of 1978-79, a winter that people of that generation still speak of in southern Sweden.

Trains ground to a halt, people were forced to leave their cars on the motorway and continue on foot as the snow piled high on the roadside. One of my former teachers once told me that he was standing in the middle of the Mårtenstorget square in Lund and, blinded by the snow, could not tell which was the right way home.

For me, it's the summer of 2018, a summer of a never-ending heatwave and drought, when crops failed, farmers had to put their livestock to emergency slaughter because they could not feed the animals, grass couldn't be cut because of the risk of a single spark from a lawnmower starting a wildfire, Polish firefighters were hailed as heroes when they arrived in the port of Trelleborg to help their Swedish colleagues battle the record blazes.

Sweden recorded excess mortality that summer, and research suggests that more than 600 people may have died as a result of the heatwave. 

Sweden is lucky in that we rarely get very extreme weather. It's lagom just like everything else. We live in a pretty much earthquake-free zone, the winters are cold but the houses are insulated, the summers are usually not that hot.


Some readers from countries with far more violent climates than Sweden may roll their eyes at the thought of any Swedish weather being "extreme". But such conditions are getting more frequent here, too, a result of the climate crisis.

I'm reminded of the summer of 2018 because Swedish newspapers are increasingly reporting that we may see a repeat of it in the weeks ahead.

Farmers are already starting to express concern over their harvests. The crops need rain and they need it soon. A grain shortage is not what Sweden or anyone else wants this year, this year of war in Europe and high food prices.

The risk of forest fires is expected to grow in the coming weeks, and there are already fire bans in place in most of southern and central Sweden. These maps reveal a frightening picture of the tinder-dry conditions in Swedish forests.


I've always wanted my journalism to be constructive. Useful and hopeful. Not cheap scaremongering for clicks. But you know what? I'm actually scared.

Staying focused helps. Avoiding the problem, or avoiding news about the problem, doesn't help me. I need to stay up to date – how can we navigate the future if we don't try to understand what's going on and what we can do?

There are things we can do. Both to help ourselves cope with the heatwave, and to help others. Staying informed, for one thing. Making sure we keep up to date with current weather warnings, fire bans and hosepipe bans.

It's a good idea to save water, but not at the expense of your health. Even when there's a hosepipe ban you're allowed to use water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene. But remember that although Sweden may not seem like a country that should have a water shortage, it could happen. At the moment groundwater levels are at normal levels or slightly below normal levels.

Keep your home cool. Swedish homes are well insulated which is great and winter, but less than ideal in summer. Close your blinds during the day and open your windows at night. And make sure you know your rights when it comes to how hot your landlords are allowed to keep your apartment.


If you're worried about your health or another person's health, you can call Sweden's national healthcare helpline 1177 for advice. Which languages they offer depend on which region you're in, but English is usually, just like Swedish, available round the clock. You'll be able to choose a language when you call.

In an emergency, you should always call 112.

If you have questions about ongoing emergencies – such as wildfires – you can call Sweden's information number 113 13. It is however important you do not call this if you're calling to report an emergency, then the number is 112.

We've got an article on The Local's site about staying safe this summer.

In other news

Would you believe there's no good segue from the climate crisis to whether or not Sweden is recognising sex as an official sport, so I'll just leave this here.

You may have seen Swedish teens, dressed all in white and funny hats, dancing on floats this week, their jubilant mood not in any way whatsoever linked to an intake of copious amounts of champagne for breakfast...

Zlatan retired from football! In case you've been living under a rock this week. But his story actually matters even if you're not a football fan, and even if you've got tired of all his Zlatanisms. Listen to The Local's latest podcast.

Swedish music streamer Spotify is cutting some 200 positions, equalling two percent of its workforce, as it slims down its internal podcast operations.

Sweden's Supreme Court gave the green light for the government to extradite a PKK-supporter to Turkey, one of the demands made by Ankara to ratify the Nato application. Will Sweden join Nato in time for its next summit in mid-July? Time is running out with Turkey and Hungary still blocking membership.

Sweden's government launched an inquiry into capping benefits so that no one in the country can earn more from social welfare than they could from working.

That's all from me, but as always there's much more to read on The Local.

Thanks for reading and have a lovely weekend!

Best wishes,

Emma Löfgren

Editor, The Local Sweden

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