In 2006 and 2013, tens of thousands of reindeer died because of global warming caused by human-influenced climate change in the polar regions of Russia. If similar meteorological effects take place this year, Russia’s reindeer industry will face catastrophe. Reindeer, Russia’s cattle of the Arctic regions, suffered terrible losses in 2006 and 2013, as thick ice covered snow due to effects of global warming. Over 80,000 animals died during the period, a repeat could be a tragedy for the 270,000-animal population. In the autumn of 2006 and 2013, sea ice began to melt instead of building up as it normally does at that time of the year, leading to a high level of water evaporation, forming large storm systems over the shore. Then, winds moved the clouds south, where indigenous herders were moving their reindeer. According to Bruce Forbes at the University of Lapland (Rovaniemi FINLAND), resulting rains covered the snow with a thick layer of ice that became unbreakable for the animals when temperatures plunged to —40 degrees. He said:
Reindeer are used to sporadic ice cover, and adult males can normally smash through ice around 2 centimetres thick, but in 2006 and 2013, the ice was several tens of centimetres thick.
This year, the sea-ice cover was the second-lowest on record in the Arctic, and there is fear of another famine. Forbes commented:
If we see such events again this year, it could mean that they’re becoming more frequent. Now is the risk window, and if it happens again, it will be a major problem for traditional reindeer herders still suffering from losses in 2013.
This year, a famine would be especially damaging as authorities scheduled a massive cull to cope with an anthrax outbreak amongst reindeer. Anthrax, a bacterial infection that quickly spreads among animals, can spread to humans. Recently, at least one child died and 90 people went to hospital in the region due to the deadly disease, causing state authorities to order emergency culling and vaccination of reindeer herds.
17 November 2016