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Finns sweat it out in century’s hottest summer

August 30, 1997

HELSINKI, Finland (AP) _ If you can’t stand the heat, get into the sauna.

It may seem counterintuitive, but that strategy is one of the more popular ones this summer _ the hottest on record in the Nordic countries. Some parts of Finland have notched a record 39 ``heat wave″ days this year, the Finnish Meteorological Institute said Friday.

The term is relative, however: In Finland, it’s officially considered a heat wave when the thermometer exceeds 77 degrees. Although hardly scorching by most standards, such temperatures are uncomfortable for many Nordics, whose homes and offices rarely have air conditioning.

``Yesterday evening, we were so hot we escaped into the sauna, which admittedly hadn’t been warmed up,″ said Vesa Varhee, 31, a financial analyst in Helsinki.

Finnish saunas generally are in buildings separated from residences. Well-insulated to keep out the cold, they also block out the summer heat.

In Denmark, temperatures this summer have frequently hit 86 degrees. The national meteorological office said August’s average of 69.2 degrees was the highest since it began keeping statistics in 1874.

While Danes have done too much complaining, travel agencies reported increased interest in rainy destinations, such as the Black Sea.

Meanwhile, in Norway, ice cream and soft drink companies reported record sales. In Sunndalsoera, 280 miles northwest of Oslo, a Norwegian ``tropical night″ record of 77 degrees was set Thursday night.

``It was good and hot, and totally unique for this time of the year,″ said Einar Grimsmo, a meteorologist in Sunndalsoera.

Unusually clear skies in Sweden have allowed the sun to beat down, making the air seem even hotter. But the country that made its artistic reputation with the brooding works of Ingmar Bergman regards the balmy days with a touch of fatalism.

``It doesn’t matter how warm or cool summer is. When the autumn comes, we feel a decline,″ journalist Adam Engstroem wrote in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, under the headline: ``It’s summer only for the moment.″

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