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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Thaw Is Cleaners' Boon, Baffled Polar Bears' Bane

For the Japanese macaques at the Moscow Zoo, the weather is fine: Temperatures 10 degrees higher than usual are allowing them to spend most of their time outdoors.


But unseasonably warm February temperatures -- up to a high of 2 degrees Celsius on Thursday -- are not necessarily proving felicitous for humans.


The sudden thaw, courtesy of a favorable front from the Atlantic, is hard on clothing. Marina Lerner of California Cleaners said slushy streets have led to an increase in customers hard-pressed to maintain a neat appearance. "Some of them return a few days after cleaning," Lerner said. "And occasionally this stuff they spray the roads with literally eats up the color on coats and trousers."


Temperatures are expected to hover around zero until at least the end of the week.


The last time it was so warm was Feb. 13, 1990, when the mercury rose to a positively sweltering record high of 6.1 C. By comparison, the coldest temperature recorded for this time of year was minus 40.3 C on Feb. 19, 1900.


The warming trend could mean a savings of perhaps one-third of fuel output, said Anatoly Gertsen of the Fuel and Energy Department of the city government, which operates the city's centralized heating system. It takes a while to turn down the heat, however, as apartment residents have no doubt noticed. Gertsen said it takes 12 hours for the system to react.


But there is a flip side to fuel savings. Gertsen said temperature swings can damage pipes, causing metal fatigue and corrosion.


The warming trend is also troublesome for some of Moscow's biggest fans of cold weather: the polar bears at the zoo.


Yelena Mendosa of the zoo's press office said that although the ursine contingent occasionally enjoys sunbathing, the lack of snow which they use to clean themselves has turned their coats yellow.


Not to worry, says Anatoly Yakovlev, a spokesman for the Federal Hydro-Meteorological Services.


The current warming trend will be short-lived, he predicted, though declining to be specific on when wintry weather will return. Winter officially lasts for almost two more months, Yakovlev said, adding that in meteorological terms, spring usually arrives in Moscow around April 4. So don't put away those fur hats and coats just yet.