Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Global Warming May Soon See Santa Don Shorts

From Yahoo! Green: ROVANIEMI, Finland (AFP) - If the most dire climate forecasts come true the tourism industry in Europe's far north, already feeling the effects of global warming, may find itself promoting a Santa in shorts and a camel-drawn sleigh.

Each year at the end of autumn, residents, shopkeepers, travel agencies, reindeer herders and even politicians in the Finnish Arctic town of Rovaniemi -- home to Santa Claus' Village, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Finland -- look to the skies in the hopes of a snowy winter.

"Everyone working in tourism here is worried. The past three or four years have been difficult for us," says Jarmo Kariniemi, owner of the Santa Claus' Office in Rovaniemi which each year attracts 340,000 visitors eager to meet the "real" Father Christmas.

This December, with only a few weeks to go before Christmas, there are only 20 centimeters (seven-and-a-half inches) of snow on the ground, just enough for snowmobiles and dog- and reindeer sleighs.

But the rivers and lakes, which normally freeze over in winter and are used to take tourists on snowmobile or sleigh rides, have not turned to ice yet, and that's bad news.

Tourism generates some 235 million euros (345 million dollars) of direct and indirect revenue in Finnish Lapland, of which about 60 percent comes during winter.

It is an enormous amount of money for the region, hit hard by high unemployment and the rural exodus to bigger towns.

Seasons greetings to all my friends in Rovaniemi and at Rovaniemi Polytechnic.

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