, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 398–414 | Cite as

Local and regional variability in snow conditions in northern Finland: A reindeer herding perspective

  • Sirpa Rasmus
  • Sonja Kivinen
  • Mathias Bavay
  • Janne Heiskanen


Weather station measurements were used to force the SNOWPACK snow model and combined with reindeer herders’ experiences to study the local and regional variations in snow conditions in a Finnish reindeer herding area for the 1981–2010 period. Winter conditions varied significantly between the four selected herding districts and between open and forest environments within the districts. The highest snow depths and densities, the thicknesses of ground ice, and the lengths of snow cover period were generally found in the northernmost districts. The snow depths showed the strongest regional coherence, whereas the thicknesses of ground ice were weakly correlated among the districts. The local variation in snow depths was higher than the regional variation and limits for rare or exceptional events varied notably between different districts and environments. The results highlight that forests diversify snow and foraging conditions, e.g., ground ice rarely forms simultaneously in different environments. Sufficient and diverse forest pastures are important during the critical winter season if reindeer herding is pursued on natural grazing grounds also in the future.


Snow Snow modelling Exceptional snow conditions Reindeer herding Rangifer tarandus tarandus Winter 



We thank Henna-Reetta Hannula, Leena Leppänen, Pentti Pirinen, and Henriikka Simola from Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) for providing meteorological data and Heidi Sjöblom from Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) for acquiring the snow line data. We thank Michael Lehning, Charlez Fierz, and several others from the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) for continuous support in the SNOWPACK use. Ilmo Kukkonen and Lauri Korhonen from University of Helsinki are thanked for the assistance in the soil and canopy parameterization needed in the snow modeling. Reindeer Herders’ Association personnel were ready to help all through the project with reindeer data, annual management reports and maps, which we warmly acknowledge. Our warmest thanks go to reindeer herders and their families from Kyrö, Käsivarsi, Pohjois-Salla, and Poikajärvi herding districts, especially Olli and Juuso Autto, Tuomas Palojärvi, Ensio Pirttilä, and Veikko Heiskari. Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAKERA—project 2327/312/2011) and the Nordic Center of Excellence Tundra have supported our work financially. We are grateful to Kirsti Jylhä and Minna Turunen for the valuable comments that have improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sirpa Rasmus
    • 1
  • Sonja Kivinen
    • 2
  • Mathias Bavay
    • 3
  • Janne Heiskanen
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Biological and Environmental ScienceUniversity of JyvaskylaJyväskyläFinland
  2. 2.Department of Geography and GeologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  3. 3.WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLFDavos DorfSwitzerland
  4. 4.Department of Geosciences and GeographyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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