Scandinavian Peninsula

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Scandinavian Peninsula


a peninsula in northwestern Europe. The Scandinavian Peninsula extends approximately 1,900 km from north to south and is 800 km wide in places. With an area of approximately 800,000 sq km, it is the largest peninsula in Europe. The peninsula is bounded by the Baltic, North, Norwegian, and Barents seas. Its continental boundary is drawn hypothetically from the northern part of the Gulf of Bothnia to Varangerfjord.

The peninsula is occupied by Norway, Sweden, and northwestern Finland. The southern part of the peninsula forms two extensions—one occupied by southern Norway and the other by southern Sweden—that are separated by the Skagerrak, Bohus Bay, and Oslofjord. The Kattegat and Øresund separate the peninsula from Denmark. The southernmost tip of the Scandinavian Peninsula is called the Skåne Peninsula. The coastline in the north and west is greatly dissected by fjords. Numerous islands and archipelagoes lie off the coast, including the Lofoten, the Vesterålen, Magerøy, and Sorøya; they are separated from the peninsula by an intricate system of straits. A low, narrow, and relatively flat coastal plain (strandflat) stretches along the shore. In the east and south the low and gently sloping banks are frequently broken by shallow bays. Numerous small islands and underwater cliffs (skerries) are found near the coasts, greatly complicating navigation.

The western and northern regions of the Scandinavian Peninsula are occupied by the Scandinavian Mountains, whose highest peak, Galdhøpiggen, is the highest point on the peninsula (2,469 m). In the east, the Scandinavian Mountains adjoin the extensive and low Norrland Plateau, which descends in steps to the Gulf of Bothnia. In the south, this plateau becomes the central Swedish lake lowlands, which have hilly morainal topography. Still farther south is the dome-shaped Småland Upland, whose elevations rise to 377 m and which is surrounded by coastal lowlands on the west, east, and south.

The basic topographic features are related to the position of the Scandinavian Peninsula within the Baltic Shield and the Caledonian folded structures that have experienced significant vertical displacements and planation through glacial exaration and accumulation in Neogene-Anthropogenic times. Glaciers on the Scandinavian Peninsula, which was the center of European continental glaciation, were more than 1,500 m thick in places. The last ice sheet retreated from the area near Stockholm about 10,000 years ago and from the northern shore of the Gulf of Bothnia some 7,000 or 8,000 years ago. The primary deposits of useful minerals on the peninsula are related to ancient tectonic structures and magmatic intrusions that penetrated the structures. Iron-ore deposits are found at Kiruna, Gällivare, Kirkenes, and Grängesberg, and there are copper, titanium, and lead deposits elsewhere on the peninsula. Petroleum deposits are found on the part of the North Sea shelf adjacent to the Scandinavian Peninsula, at Ekofisk and elsewhere.

Most of the Scandinavian Peninsula is in the northern part of the temperate zone, although the extreme north is in the subarctic zone. The climate is extremely varied because the Scandinavian Mountains act as a barrier against moist air masses coming from the Atlantic Ocean and because the peninsula extends for such a great distance north to south. Because of intensive cyclonic circulation and the warming effect of the North Atlantic Drift, the western part of the peninsula has a marine climate: winters are mild, with mean January temperatures of from - 4°C in the north to 2°C in the south; summers are cool, with mean July temperatures of from 6°C in the north to 14°C in the south; precipitation is abundant and relatively evenly distributed through the year with an average of 1,000 to 3,000 mm annually. In the higher zone of the Scandinavian Mountains, the mean January temperature is - 16°C, with July temperatures of 6°C to 8°C; about 5,000 sq km of this area are covered by ice sheets and mountain-valley glaciers. The climate in the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula is temperate and transitional to a continental climate; mean January temperatures range from - 15°C in the north to - 3°C in the south, with July temperatures of from 10°C in the north to 17°C in the south. Precipitation in the east ranges from 300 to 800 mm annually, but the low rate of evaporation means that moisture here is adequate or excessive almost everywhere; the land is quite swampy.

The Scandinavian Peninsula has a dense river network. The rivers are primarily short, turbulent, and of a high water level, with the greatest hydroenergy reserves in Western Europe. The largest rivers are the Glåma, Klarälven, Torneälven, and Daläl-ven. There are many lakes in tectonic basins reworked by ancient glaciers, the largest being Vänern, Vättern, and Mälaren.

Approximately 43 percent of the Scandinavian Peninsula is forested. Taiga forests of pine and spruce growing on podzols and peat-marsh soils predominate and are especially typical of the eastern regions of the peninsula. Heaths and peat bogs occupy large areas in the west. In the south there are mixed forests and broadleaved forests, with humus-podzol soils and nonpod-zolized forest soils. Tundra is found in the far north, with mountain tundra in the highest mountain zone. The animal world is represented primarily by forest species, such as elks, foxes and hares; lemmings are found on the tundra. Deer live in the north, and bird colonies inhabit coastal cliffs and islands. The coastal waters are rich in Atlantic cod, herring, mackerel, and other fish.


Eramov, R. A. Fizicheskaia geografiia zarubezhnoi Evropy. Moscow, 1973.
Zanina, A. A. Klimat Skandinavskogopoluostrova. Leningrad, 1964.
O’Dell, A. Scandinaviia. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from English.)
Chabot, G. [et al]. L’Europe du Nord et du Nord-Ouest. Vol. 1. Paris, 1958.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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