Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Warm Spell Has Siberians Hot Under the Collar

NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia - To the casual observer, little seems to have changed in Siberia. But for the hardy folk who inhabit this frozen wilderness that stretches one third of the way around the earth, one recent change is grounds for complaint: The Russian winter is no longer cold enough.


Siberia is experiencing a winter heatwave.


"It was tremendous when I was young, we used to get meters of snows on the fields", said 62-year-old Pyotr Abramov, a Siberian agricultural worker. "Now the frost is weaker and the snow is thinner".


Temperatures 20 years ago were, on average, about 5-10 degrees Celsius lower than there are today. The three coldest days over the Christmas period in the past sixty years were 1939, 1955 and 1959; the three warmest 1975, 1978 and 1988.


Meteorologists have not yet made up their minds why the change in temperature is happening, although they suspect that it is caused by three things: First, the general warming of the planet; second, heavy industry in the Kuzbass and Novosibirsk regions of Siberia; and third, the short term effects of winds originating in the Atlantic ocean.


The result has angered Siberians.


"We had temperatures varying from -40 in the winter to +40 in the summer", said Sergei Rundayev, a former KGB driver brought up in Siberia. "Now, anything below minus 15 is very rare, it's not so refreshing as it used to be".


The warming could result in the Russian steppe creeping northwards at the expense of Siberia's dense forests, which sweep across the north of the country in an arc from the Urals to the Russian Far East.