Do polar bears live in Estonia?

Although Estonia is situated in Northern Europe, the nearest polar bears live more than 2000 km further north.

Located between 57° and 59°N, Estonia shares its latitude with that of central Sweden, southern Norway and the northern tip of the Scottish mainland. Eastwards, the middle latitude of Estonia passes over the Central Urals and through Siberia, and continues over the Bering Sea into southern Alaska and the northern expanses of Canada.

By longitude, Estonia’s companions include Sápmi, Finland, the Balkans, the Libyan Desert, eastern Congo and the Cape provinces of South Africa.

Estonia’s Nordic location makes the rotation of seasons and the succession of light and dark periods of the year well marked. While the length of the shortest winter day is a mere six hours, the longest day in summer lasts over 18. As the long spans of twilight around the summer solstice make the darkness briefer still, southerners may find it difficult to sleep during the white nights that last from early May to late July.

​By longitude, Estonia’s companions include Sápmi, Finland, the Balkans, the Libyan Desert, eastern Congo and the Cape provinces of South Africa.

Estonia’s Nordic location makes the rotation of seasons and the succession of light and dark periods of the year well marked. While the length of the shortest winter day is a mere six hours, the longest day in summer lasts over 18. As the long spans of twilight around the summer solstice make the darkness briefer still, southerners may find it difficult to sleep during the white nights that last from early May to late July.

The climate in Estonia is primarily determined by the country’s maritime location. The Baltic Sea that surrounds Estonia from the north, west and south-west, together with the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean, keep summers cooler and winters considerably milder compared to the more continental regions in the east. As a matter of fact, the temperate climate made Estonia the northernmost cereal growing region in the world for several hundred years following the arrival of agriculture in the Late Neolithic period.

On the other hand, despite recurrent ironic complaints about Estonia’s summer being “three months of lousy skiing weather,” the clear distinction between the seasons is one of the few features cherished by the majority of Estonians. And rightly so! It is typical for an average Estonian summer day to warm up to around 20˚C, and week long spells of sunny and hot weather with daily temperatures topping 30˚C are not uncommon either. Similarly, while the temperature of a normal winter’s day ranges from around –2˚ to –5˚C, plunges to –25˚C are by no means unusual.

While virtually snowless winters do occur in Estonia, it is common for a white carpet to cover most of the mainland from late December until the beginning of March. In harsher winters many of Estonia’s islands become ‘landlocked’ by sea ice. They are made accessible by temporary ice roads, passing over the same straits in which many swim in summer – in July and August, the sea warms up to well over 25˚C in small, shallow bays.

Estonia’s share of rain and snow is brought mainly by the cyclones that move in from the Atlantic. Consequently, the prevailing directions of wind are southwest and west – a byname for westerly directions in many Estonian dialects is vesikaar, meaning literally ‘the direction of water’. However, as Estonia is sheltered by the Scandinavian mountains from the direct impact of ocean borne elemental fury, severe weather conditions are rare – the last hurricanes raged through the country in 1969 and in 2005.

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