The Baltic Sea is one of the world's most polluted and most heavily trafficked seas. In consequence, the Baltic Sea is under increasing pressure. At the same time, the Baltic Sea is one of the world's best recreational areas, where safe transport requires accurate information about the weather and the sea.
Photo: Kirsti Kotro
The Baltic Sea suffers from many ailments. Apart from several gradually deteriorating conditions, such as eutrophication and overfishing, the Baltic Sea also faces an ever greater risk of oil spills.
“For us to be able to steer marine research and services in the right, sustainable direction, we must look into the opportunities, threats, weaknesses and needs of the Baltic Sea from a wide perspective,” says Johanna Ikävalko, the new Head of Marine Research in the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
An extensive management plan for the Finnish marine environment is under preparation. The target is to achieve good environmental status in the Baltic Sea by the year 2020, in line with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive of the EU.
“An initial assessment of the current status of the sea must be ready on 15 July 2012. Besides the state of the Baltic Sea, the assessment includes analyses of the pressures and impacts on the environment and calculations of the financial and social costs arising from the use of water resources and the declining state of the marine environment. By the same date, we must determine good environmental status for the waters concerned, and must set comprehensive environmental targets and the associated indicators,” explains Senior Research Scientist Hermanni Kaartokallio of the Finnish Environment Institute.
Monitoring programmes must be launched by the year 2014, and the implementation of the programmes of measures must start at the latest in 2016. The management plan for the marine environment will help to control the increasing pressures posed to the Baltic Sea. The management plan is drawn up in cooperation by a wide circle of experts. Besides the Ministry of the Environment and other ministries, the participants include the Finnish Environment Institute, the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment bordering on the coast, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute, Metsähallitus, and several other research institutes and agencies.
At the start of the current navigation season, the Finnish Meteorological Institute adopted a number of new warnings for marine areas. This summer, for the first time, people at sea and on the coast are warned about exceptionally high waves, water level and hot weather. For instance, the warnings about waves give an idea of the smoothness of traffic to Tallinn. All new warnings have three severity grades, making it easier to assess the risks involved in each situation.
What’s more, the Finnish Meteorological Institute issues advance warnings about hazardous weather 24 to 72 hours before the threatening situation. The advance warnings encompass thunder squalls, high winds at sea, wave height, and exceptionally high or low seawater level. Apart from these advance warnings of special interest to boaters, advance warnings are also issued, among others, for heavy rains, hot weather periods, and high winds in land areas.
In the Baltic Sea basin, waves can reach heights that require increasing attention in seafaring and the planning of infrastructure in coastal areas. So far the strongest expansive storms have taken place in the southern Baltic Sea, where mean wind speeds of over 32 m/s and gusts of over 40 m/s have been measured.
Climate change will gradually mean more gusts at sea both in summer and in winter. However, natural variation will always play a major role. Around Scandinavia, changes associated with low-pressure activities will be statistically significant, at the latest, towards the end of this century. Models indicate that there will be more rain and wind, and low pressure fronts will take less favourable routes. The more global warming progresses over time, the more significant the changes will be.
State of the Baltic Sea:
Johanna Ikävalko, Head of Marine Research, Finnish Meteorological Institute, tel. 0400 291 066, firstname.lastname@example.org
Heikki Pitkänen, Head of the Unit for the State of the Marine Environment, Marine Research Centre of the Finnish Environment Institute, tel. 040 582 3182, email@example.com
Management plan for the marine environment:
Hermanni Kaartokallio, Senior Research Scientist, Marine Research Centre of the Finnish Environment Institute, tel. 050 325 7580, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hilppa Gregow, Head of Group, Climate Research and Applications, tel. (09) 1929 3510, email@example.com
Read more about the new warnings: http://en.ilmatieteenlaitos.fi/information-on-warnings
Marine weather and the Baltic Sea: http://en.ilmatieteenlaitos.fi/marine-weather-and-baltic-sea
Read more about the management plan for the marine environment (in Finnish)
Read more about the state of the Baltic Sea: