HELSINKI (AP) -- Unusually mild weather in Finland left the southern part of the Nordic nation with a surprising absence of snow Wednesday and an unusual delay in the start of "thermal winter," meteorologists said.
Mainland Finland recorded a high temperature of 7.9 degrees Celsius (46.2 F) and it reached 8.7 degrees Celsius (47.7 F) in the Aland Islands, an autonomous Baltic Sea region of Finland.
"Thermal winter" is defined as when sub-zero temperatures set in for a certain number of days, Tuomo Bergman of the Finnish Meteorological Institute said. In southern Finland, where that usually happens in November, January temperatures typically average -10 degrees Celsius (14 F).
Bergman said it was "entirely possible" southern Finland might get weather that cold as late as March, which happened during the winter of 2007-2008.
The above-average temperatures have meant that Finland only has a seasonal blanket of snow north of the central city of Jyvaskyla, some 270 kilometers (168 miles) northeast of Helsinki.
In Helsinki, the Finnish capital, residents could only go cross-country skiing at designated ski parks where tracks were being kept in shape with the help of snow cannons and other equipment.
Five big icebreakers lying idle at a central Helsinki port stood as another symbol of winter's late start. The Baltic Sea has frozen only in parts of the Gulf of Bothnia between Finland and Sweden, the sea's northernmost arm.
"This is a rare situation, but not unique. Winters vary quite a lot and are not necessarily alike," Hannu Ylarinne, interim CEO of the state-owned shipping company Arctia, which operates Finland's icebreaker fleet, told Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat on Tuesday.
In Norway, Finland's Nordic neighbor, temperatures reached 19 degrees Celsius (66.2 F) on Jan. 2 in western Moere og Romsdal county, smashing the previous high temperature record for a single day in January.
According to Norwegian meteorologists, statistics show that winters are growing increasingly short in Norway, with a steadily declining number of days with sub-zero temperatures.