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1UpTravel - Weather Forecast & Weather Reports of Cities Country-wise. - Weather Forecast for Cities of Latvia

Weather Forecast & Reports for Cities of Latvia

 Liepaja East, Latvia 
Riga, Latvia

 Ventspils, Latvia

Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania

Geographic coordinates: 57 00 N, 25 00 E

Map references: Europe

total: 64,589 sq km
land: 64,589 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative: slightly larger than West Virginia

Land boundaries:
total: 1,150 km
border countries: Belarus 141 km, Estonia 339 km, Lithuania 453 km, Russia 217 km

Coastline: 531 km

Maritime claims:
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: maritime; wet, moderate winters

Terrain: low plain

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Gaizinkalns 312 m

Natural resources: minimal; amber, peat, limestone, dolomite, hydropower, arable land

Land use:
arable land: 27%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 13%
forests and woodland: 46%
other: 14% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 160 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: NA

Environment - current issues: air and water pollution because of a lack of waste conversion equipment; Gulf of Riga and Daugava River heavily polluted; contamination of soil and groundwater with chemicals and petroleum products at military bases

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol


Latvia is situated on the Baltic coast and borders Estonia in the north, Lithuania in the south, the Russian Federation in the east and Belarus in the southeast.

The coastal plain is mostly flat, but inland to the east the land is hilly with forests and lakes. There are about 12,000 rivers in Latvia, the biggest being the River Daugava. The ports of Riga and Ventspils never freeze over during the winter.


Latvia’s climate is generally dominated by marine influences. More continental conditions exist in the eastern portion of the republic.

Near the sea, summers are cool and winters are mild. Snow covers the ground from two to more than four months of the year. Summers are usually warm, with average daily temperatures exceeding 25° C (exceeding 77° F).

Background: Along with most of the other small nations of Europe, Latvia shares a history of invasion by a succession of expansionist nations, e.g., Sweden, Poland, Germany, and Russia.

After a brief period of independence between the two World Wars, Latvia was annexed by the USSR in 1940 under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The USSR recaptured Latvia from its German occupiers in 1944.

Latvia reestablished its independence in August 1991, a few months prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union; the last Russian troops left in 1994.

The status of ethnic Russians, who make up 30% of the population, is an issue of concern to Moscow. Unemployment has become a growing problem and Latvia hopes to receive an invitation to begin EU accession talks by the end of 1999.

Latvia is a European nation that regained its independence in 1991, after more than 50 years of forced annexation to the Soviet Union. Latvia lies on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea.

It had been independent from 1918 to 1940, when the Soviet Union occupied it and made it one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union.



Formal Name: Republic of Latvia (Latvijas Republika).

Short Form: Latvia (Latvija).

Term for Citizen(s): Latvian(s).

Capital: Riga.

Date of Independence: During abortive Soviet coup, declared immediate full independence August 21, 1991; Soviet Union recognized it September 6, 1991. November 18, Independence Day, national holiday; on this day in 1918, independent Republic of Latvia proclaimed.


Size: 64,589 square kilometers, slightly larger than West Virginia.

Topography: Undulating plains cover 75 percent of country. Forest 42 percent; cultivable land 27 percent; meadows and pastureland 13 percent; peat bog, swamp, and marsh 10 percent; and other 8 percent. Highest elevation 300 meters.

Climate: Temperate, with mild winters and cool summers. Average January temperatures range from -2.8°C in Liepaja to -6.6°C in Daugavpils; average July temperatures range from 16.7°C in Liepaja to 17.6°C in Daugavpils. Frequent precipita-tion, averaging 180 days per year in Riga. Annual precipitation 500 to 700 millimeters.

Data as of January 1995


The Pursuit of Independence, 1987-91

The national awakening came about in large measure as a result of Gorbachev's loosening of the reins of repression and his public stress on truth and freedom of expression. When open demonstrations started in 1987, Latvians were no longer lacking in social cohesion. The purpose of these "calendar" demonstrations was to publicly commemorate the events of June 13-14, 1941 (the mass deportations of Latvians to the Soviet Union); August 23, 1939 (the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact); and November 18, 1918 (the proclamation of Latvian independence). During the several years leading up to the first demonstrations by Helsinki '86 on June 14, 1987, several groups had labored with missionary zeal to inspire Latvians to work for a number of social and political causes.

One group that organized in 1976 committed itself to the revival of folk culture and, in spite of harassment, succeeded in rekindling interest in Latvian traditions and in awakening pride in being Latvian. Parallel to the folk culture group, another movement focused on the repair of old churches and monuments and the protection of the environment. The founder of this movement, the Environmental Protection Club (EPC), acknowledged that its primary goal was to raise the consciousness of the general public. Indeed, the EPC became the organization within which many individuals opposed to various aspects of Sovietization and Russification could unite. Under the seemingly nonpolitical umbrella of the EPC, they could organize far more radical bodies, such as the Latvian National Independence Movement.

A dynamic group of young theologians within Latvia's moribund Evangelical Lutheran Church also began a campaign to reactivate their congregations and the structure of the church itself. The Rebirth and Renewal (Atdzimsana un Atjaunosana) group did not have many members, but its activism and confrontation with communist party officials and policies energized people within the growing religious communities as well as in the wider society. Indeed, several individuals from this group served as catalysts for the creation of the Popular Front of Latvia (Latvijas Tautas Fronte--LTF).

The mobilization of a larger constituency of Latvians occurred as a result of the successful campaign to stop the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Daugava River in 1987. The initiator of this campaign, journalist Dainis Ivans, was later elected the first president of the LTF.

The "calendar" demonstrations, led by Helsinki '86 during 1987, electrified the Latvian population. Most people expected the authorities to mete out swift and ruthless retribution. When they did not, even more people joined in. In 1988 this grassroots protest was joined by the Latvian intelligentsia, whose demands for decentralization and democratization were forcefully articulated at the June 1-2 plenum of the Latvian Writers Union. Several months later, the idea of a popular front was brought to fruition, with a formal first congress organized on October 8-9, 1988.

The LTF had more than 100,000 dues-paying members and chapters in almost every locality in Latvia. These members slowly took the initiative in politics and became a de facto second government, pushing the Latvian Supreme Soviet to adopt a declaration of sovereignty and economic independence in July 1989. They also helped elect a majority of their approved candidates for the all-union Congress of People's Deputies in the spring of 1989; for the municipal local elections in December of that year; and for the critical parliamentary elections of March-April 1990. Slightly more than two-thirds of the delegates in the new parliament, now known as the Supreme Council, voted in favor of a transition to a democratic and independent Latvia on May 4, 1990. This process was marred by several instances of Soviet aggression, most notably in January 1991, when five people were killed during an attack on the Latvian Ministry of Interior in Riga by units of the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs Special Forces Detachment (Otryad militsii osobogo naznacheniya--OMON), commonly known as the Black Berets. The transition turned out to be much briefer than anyone could have expected, however, because of the failed Soviet coup of August 1991. Latvia declared independence on August 21, 1991. Soon thereafter, the Soviet Union recognized Latvia's independence, and once again Latvia was able to join the world community of nations.

Physical Environment

Latvia is traditionally seen as a tiny country. In terms of its population of about 2.6 million, it deserves this designation. Geographically, however, Latvia encompasses 64,589 square kilometers, a size surpassing that of better-known European states such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Denmark. Seen from the air, Latvia is an extension of the East European Plain. Its flat terrain differs little from that of its surrounding neighbors. Latvia's only distinct border is the Baltic Sea coast, which extends for 531 kilometers. Its neighbors include Estonia on the north (267 kilometers of common border), Lithuania on the south (453 kilometers), Belarus on the southeast (141 kilometers), and Russia on the east (217 kilometers). Prior to World War II, Latvia bordered eastern Poland, but as a result of boundary changes by the Soviet Union, this territory was attached to Belorussia. Also, in 1944 Russia annexed the northeastern border district of Latvia, known as Abrene, including the town of Pytalovo (see fig. 2).

Data as of January 1995


Geographic Features

The physiography of Latvia and its neighboring areas was formed, to a large degree, during the Quartenary period and the Pleistocene ice age, when soil and debris were pushed by glaciers into mounds and hills. Undulating plains cover 75 percent of Latvia's territory and provide the main areas for farming; 25 percent of the territory lies in uplands of moderate-sized hills. About 27 percent of the total territory is cultivable, with the central Zemgale Plain south of Riga being the most fertile and profitable. The three main upland areas--in the provinces of Kurzeme (western Latvia), Vidzeme (central Latvia), and Latgale (eastern Latvia)--provide a picturesque pattern of fields interspersed with forests and numerous lakes and rivers. In this area, the extensive glacial moraines, eskers, and drumlins have limited the profitability of agriculture by fragmenting fields and presenting serious erosion problems.

About 10 percent of Latvian territory consists of peat bogs, swamps, and marshes, some of which are covered by stunted forest growth. Forests are the outstanding feature of Latvia, claiming 42 percent of the territory. Lumber and wood products are among the country's most important exports. Two-thirds of the forests consist of Scotch pine or Norway spruce. Latvian forests differ from those of North America primarily because of their relatively brush-free understory. The forest floor, however, is far from a biological desert, as is often the case in tree plantations. Indeed, one of the most widespread pastimes of the population is picking blueberries, mushrooms, cranberries, and other bounties of the natural environment.

Few of the forests are fully mature because of previous overcutting and also because of several violent storms during the 1960s, which snapped or uprooted millions of trees. As a consequence, most of the wood today is derived from thinning and improvement cuts, forming 50 percent of the annual total growth increment of 8 million cubic meters of wood.

For a long time, wood has been a basic source of energy. The utilization of wood as fuel has increased dramatically in the 1990s, even in cities, because of the numbing price hikes on other forms of energy. Local wood is also an important resource for the pulp and paper industry and for specialized plywood and furniture manufacturers. A great concern today is the unregulated cutting of timber for the foreign market. Prices paid by European wood buyers are phenomenally high by local standards, and there is much pressure to utilize this opportunity for cash accumulation, even without legal permits. By 1992 the problem had become so serious that Latvian forestry officials were given the right to carry firearms.

Not all forests are productive. Many areas, especially abandoned, formerly private farms, have become overgrown with low-value alders and other scrub trees. With the return of private farming, these areas are once again being reclaimed for agriculture. In the process, however, there is a danger that these areas, which are ideal for wildlife, will become threatened. The decades-long neglect of extensive areas of marginal farmland was a boon for the establishment of unique ecological conditions favorable for the survival of animal species rarely found in other parts of Europe. According to a World Wildlife Fund study in 1992, Latvia has unusual populations of black storks, small eagles, otters, beaver, lynx, and wolves. There are also great concentrations of deer (86,000), wild boar (32,000), elk (25,000), moose (13,000), and fox (13,000). Many Latvians today are planning to exploit this resource by catering to foreign hunters.

The variegated and rapidly changing physiography of glacial moraines and lowlands has also allowed temperate flora, such as oaks, to grow within a few hundred meters of northern flora, such as bog cotton and cloudberries. This variety and the rapid change in natural ecosystems are among the unique features of the republic.

The Soviet system left behind another windfall for naturalists. The Latvian western seacoast was a carefully guarded border region. Almost all houses near the sea were razed or evacuated. As a result, about 300 kilometers of undeveloped seashore are graced only by forests of pine and spruce and ecologically unique sand dunes. The temptation for fast profit, however, may foster violation of laws that clearly forbid any construction within one kilometer of the sea. Unless the government takes vigorous action, one of the last remaining wild shorelines in Europe may become just a memory.

The seashore adjoining the population centers around Riga was a major focus of tourism during the Soviet era. Jurmala, with its many sanatoriums and tourist accommodations, its tall pines, sandy beaches, and antique architecture, is now experiencing a wrenching readjustment. East European tourists can no longer afford to come here, and Western tourists have not yet discovered the area and its relatively low prices. West Europeans may be loath to come, however, because excessive pollution has closed Jurmala beaches to swimming since 1988. Moreover, facilities and accommodations adequate for Soviet tastes fall far short of minimal standards expected in the West.

Latvia has an abundant network of rivers, contributing to the visual beauty and the economy of the country. The largest river is the Daugava, which has been an important route for several thousand years. It has been used by local tribes as well as by Vikings, Russians, and other Europeans for trade, war, and conquest. With a total length of 1,020 kilometers, the Daugava (or Zapadnaya Dvina in its upper reaches) originates in the Valday Hills in Russia's Tver' Oblast, meanders through northern Belarus, and then winds through Latvia for 370 kilometers before emptying into the Gulf of Riga. It is about 200 meters wide when it enters Latvia, increasing to between 650 and 750 meters at Riga and to 1.5 kilometers at its mouth.

The river carries an average annual flow of twenty-one cubic kilometers. Its total descent within Latvia of ninety-eight meters has made it an attractive source of hydroelectric power production. The first hydroelectric station, at Kegums, was built during Latvia's independence period. The second dam, at Plavinas, aroused an unusual wave of protest in 1958. Most Latvians opposed the flooding of historical sites and a particularly scenic gorge with rare plants and natural features, such as the Staburags, a cliff comparable in cultural significance to the Lorelei in Germany. The construction of the dam was endorsed in 1959, however, after the purge of relatively liberal and nationally oriented leaders under Berklavs and their replacement by Moscow-oriented, ideologically conservative cadres led by Pelse. The third dam, just above Riga, did not provoke much protest because of the seeming hopelessness of the cause. The proposed fourth dam, at the town of Daugavpils on the Daugava River, became the rallying point for protest in 1986-87 by hundreds of thousands of Latvians. This dam was not constructed, in spite of the vast expenditures already poured into the project.

Smaller rivers include the Lielupe, in central Latvia, with an average annual flow of 3.6 cubic kilometers; the Venta, in the west, with 2.9 cubic kilometers; the Gauja, in the northeast, with 2.5 cubic kilometers; and the Aiviekste, in the east, with 2.1 cubic kilometers. Very little hydroelectric power is generated by their waters, although planners are now thinking of reactivating some of the abandoned older dams and turbines. The Gauja is one of Latvia's most attractive, relatively clean rivers and has an adjoining large national park along both of its banks as one of its notable features. Its cold waters attract trout and salmon, and its sandstone cliff and forest setting are increasingly a magnet for tourists interested in the environment.

More than 60 percent of the annual water volume of Latvia's six largest rivers comes from neighboring countries, mainly from Belarus and Lithuania. These adjoining resources create obvious needs for cooperation, especially in pollution control. The dangers from a lack of cooperation were brought home to Latvians in November 1990, when a polymer complex in Navapolatsk, Belarus, accidentally spilled 128 tons of cyanide derivatives into the Daugava River with no warning to downstream users in Latvia. Only the presence of numerous dead fish alerted Latvian inhabitants to the danger.

Data as of January 1995



Latvia's northern location matches Labrador's latitude. In the summer, daylight hours are much longer and in the winter much shorter than in New York City, for example. In December it is still pitch dark at 9:00 A.M., and daylight disappears before 4:00 P.M. This light deprivation may be an important ingredient in deciphering certain aspects of Latvian collective behavior. It may account for the general exuberance and joie de vivre in spring and summer, and the relative taciturnity and melancholy the rest of the year. The climate is far different from that of Labrador, however, because of the effect of the Gulf Stream flowing across the Atlantic Ocean from Mexico. Average temperatures in winter are reasonably mild, ranging in January from -2.8°C in Liepaja, on the western coast, to -6.6°C in the southeastern town of Daugavpils. July temperatures range from 16.7°C in Liepaja to 17.6°C in Daugavpils. Latvia's proximity to the sea brings high levels of humidity and precipitation, with average annual precipitation of 566 millimeters in Riga. There, an average of 180 days per year have precipitation, forty-four days have fog, and only seventy-two days are sunny. Continuous snow cover lasts eighty-two days, and the frost-free period lasts 177 days.

This precipitation has helped provide the abundant water for Latvia's many rivers and lakes, but it has created many problems as well. A large part of agricultural land requires drainage. Much money has been spent for amelioration projects involving the installation of drainage pipes, the straightening and deepening of natural streams, the digging of drainage ditches, and the construction of polder dams. During the 1960s and 1970s, drainage work absorbed about one-third of all agricultural investments in Latvia. Although accounting for only one-third of 1 percent of the territory, Latvia was responsible for 11 percent of all artificially drained land in the Soviet Union.

An additional problem associated with precipitation is the difficulty of early mechanized sowing and harvesting because of waterlogged fields. Heavy precipitation occurs, especially during harvest time in August and September, requiring heavy investment outlays in grain-drying structures and ventilation systems. In 1992, ironically, Latvia experienced the driest summer in recorded weather history, but unusually heavy rains in the preceding spring kept crop damage below the extent expected. The moist climate has been a major factor orienting Latvian agriculture toward animal husbandry and dairying. Even most of the field crops, such as barley, oats, and potatoes, are grown for animal feed.

Natural Resources

Latvia cannot claim valuable natural resources. Nevertheless, the abundant presence of such materials as limestone for cement (6 billion cubic meters), gypsum (165 million cubic meters), high-quality clay (375 million cubic meters), dolomite (615 million cubic meters), peat (480 million tons), and construction materials, including gravel and sand, satisfy local needs. Fish from the Baltic Sea is another potential export resource export. Amber, million-year-old chunks of petrified pine pitch, is often found on the beaches of the Baltic Sea and is in high demand for jewelry. It has also had a symbolic impact on the country, which is often called Dzimtarzeme, or Amberland. The future may hold potentially more valuable resources if oil fields are discovered in Latvian territorial waters, as some geologists have predicted.

Data as of January 1995

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