The most functional city in the world – despite weather and climate change

The vision of Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is to become the most functional city in the world. A well-functioning city must also take into account the impacts and consequences of weather phenomena and climate change, and aim at reducing them. Helsinki has conducted a weather and climate risk assessment together with the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The assessment includes an analysis of the changing climatological conditions and analyses the exposure and vulnerability of the city and its people, infrastructure and the economy to the various climatological hazards.

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Extreme winter conditions will require preparedness also in the future. Photo credit: Antonin Halas / Studio Halas

Helsinki’s climate is changing and cross-border impacts need to be considered

Due to Helsinki’s location in the north, weather and climate put many constraints on the city administration’s activities; and have implications on the people and organizations living and operating in the city. The changing climate poses additional challenges. Compared to the current climate, average temperatures are predicted to rise by several degrees centigrade. Changes in extreme temperatures and their duration, as well as intensifying heavy rains, will create various societal impacts. In addition, the cross-border impacts of weather and climate change, taking place in Finland and internationally, will be felt in Helsinki and may prove to be significant.

Floods and extreme winter conditions as top hazards

Floods and extreme winter conditions are likely to be the most important climate hazards in Helsinki. Moreover, the risks to ecosystems are considerable, particularly due to other pressures on the natural environment. Integration of the increasing climate risk into all relevant decision-making levels and situations is key in reducing risk. Land use planning and construction play a major role in reducing climate risks. Although plenty of preparedness and adaptation measures have already been implemented in Helsinki, flood risk reduction in established areas and supplementary construction should be thoroughly considered. The use of urban green and other absorbing surfaces delaying storm waters should be carefully evaluated. Flood routes should also be designed in a way to direct floodwaters from the area in a controlled manner. Urban green also reduces discomfort caused by heat. The risk of heat waves is increasing in Helsinki due to urbanisation, an increasingly densely built environment and rising summer temperatures. The cost-effectiveness of various actions should be carefully assessed and the life-cycle cost of the various measures should be determined before implementation.

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More information:
Weather and climate risk assessment for Helsinki – Summary

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