Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

– 20, and Not Warming Up

Filed under: EU,Russian,science — 01varvara @ 00.00

Snow outside of Moo Moo, a popular Moscow restaurant (on the Arbat, get out of the Filyovskaya Line metro at the Smolenskaya stop, walk to the Arbat and turn left, it’s not far).

Frost moved down from the Arctic, more precisely, from the eastern portion of the Arctic region over the Kara Sea. Heavy snowfalls took place in Spain and disrupted railway and bus service schedules. In the Balkans, Croatia and Slovenia were the hardest hit. The ski resorts are empty because snow clogs the roads, making access very difficult. Many drivers simply do not dare get behind the wheel in such weather. Frosts are omnipresent in Poland… one day, the temperature dropped from 0 degrees down to -20 C (32 to -4 degrees F), and a sharp cold snap and heavy snowfall caused many road accidents. In Moscow, it is also -20 C, although according to the climatic norm, the thermometer should show -5 C (23 degrees F).

In general, this December has been full of surprises. Earlier this month, the temperature was above-zero C (32 degrees F), and the Russians in some regions of the country generally thought that we wouldn’t see any snow, and there would be none before the New Year. Everybody was saying, look, global warming has already begun. Then, the snow fell; all were delighted… and then began looking for wool socks, winding on scarves and shawls, and pulling on gloves and mittens. It was what meteorologists call a high polar surface temperature inversion. No one was talking about global warming anymore.

Usually you go to the metro station and you see a crowd of people at the entrance… some are rushing to appointments, some are smoking, and some are just loitering, but, not these days. Today, no one goes out on the street without a cause. Aleksei Lyakhov, the Director of the Moscow Hydrology and Meteorology Bureau, warned, “It’ll only get colder. We expect the most severe frosts on Wednesday, the daytime temperature will be about -20 C, and, in some places in Moscow Oblast, it could go down to -28 degrees C (-19 degrees F) that evening”. Abnormal cold is a threat to human life. In Moscow, frost kills five people per day. In addition, 19 people go to hospital because of frostbite. Most of these are the homeless or the severely inebriated. For them, the frost has been fatal.

According to some forecasts, it may be less than -30 C (-22 F) in the Moscow Oblast, extremely unusual for mid-December. If you think that’s something, it’s -45 C (-49 F) in Karelia right now! In Trans-Baikalia and the Urals, it’s -40 C (-40 F). The Perm region and Bashkortostan expect the same. In the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District and in the Komi Republic there are places where it’s -47 C (-53 F). Meanwhile, such a sharp drop in temperature occurs in December only once every five to seven years. The last time this happened was at the turn of the millennium, and the one before that was twelve years ago. Therefore, even though it is bitterly cold and a deviation from the norm, we cannot call it extreme.

15 December 2009

Yekaterina Antropova

Voice of Russia World Service



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