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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shortest and Warmest Winter in 126 Years

Like many fashion-conscious women, Rosa Kamenev could not bear the thought of facing a Russian winter without a chic fur coat. So when she moved back from sunny Sydney last fall, she stopped over in Paris and bought herself a stylish black mink coat.

"And what do you suppose happened? I didn't wear that coat even once," said Kamenev, a Russian-born Australian who lived in Sydney for the past 17 years. "Where is my Russian winter? Sure, there were a few freezing cold days, but it was just my luck that they happened while I was away from Moscow."

Freezing cold days were indeed in short supply this winter, which, according to the Federal Meteorological and Environmental Monitoring Service, was the warmest and shortest Russian winter in the last 126 years.

"If I had known what had happened to the weather here, I might have thought twice about coming back," Kamenev said. "At least in Australia there isn't so much mud in winter."

Only 28 centimeters of snow fell this year, as compared with the usual 35 to 40 centimeters, and even that meager amount of snow lay on the ground only 50 days, 80 days fewer than the average, said Anatoly Isayev, head of the Moscow State University meteorological observatory.

Higher-than-average temperatures in December and January made this past winter especially warm, with Moscow experiencing days of up to 9 degrees Celsius in December -- something unheard of for a month when the temperature has been closer to minus 6 C for the past century.

This season's first snow fell one day before the new year, although it usually comes in late October, and while typically the city is covered in snow by around Nov. 20, this year it came two months later, on Jan. 24.

These and other unprecedented climatic aberrations were part of what meteorologists dubbed a "thermal wave": 70 consecutive days of above-freezing temperatures beginning Nov. 13 and lasting until Jan. 24.

"Nothing like this had happened since 1879," Isayev said.

The mild winter had an unsettling effect on many in Moscow and across Russia.

Thirty-five percent of respondents said the warm weather negatively affected their mood and sense of well-being, with 26 percent saying it had a positive effect, according to a nationwide poll conducted by the independent Levada Center in December. Thirty-seven percent said the weather had no effect on them whatsoever, while only one percent said weather in their region was typical for December.

National newspapers have been filled with advice on wintertime depression caused by too much warmth, and a lack of sun and light because of the absence of snow was a common complaint.

Depression and negative mood shifts most frequently occur during overcast weather, said Dr. Alexander Nemtsov, a professor at the psychiatry institute of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences.

"Some people are what you might call 'sunshine-dependent,' and for them, perpetually overcast skies and such gray, snowless winters can cause depression," Nemtsov said.

And not only humans were affected. The bears at Moscow's zoo only managed to nod off in late December after a few sleepless weeks because of the unusually warm weather.

Several Moscow residents said they did not like the relatively snow-free winter and that they preferred freezing temperatures, snow and sunshine.

"This was the first winter when I stayed in the city every weekend," said Gennady Sviridov, a 25-year-old accountant. "I always used to drive out to a village and go cross-country skiing in the surrounding woods."

Olga Makeyeva, a 28-year-old teacher, said she didn't miss skiing and skating, but that her daughter, Katya, 3, did not get her fill of sledding.

"We went sledding only about two times this winter," Makeyeva said. "If it will always be like this, then my daughter is definitely opposed to global warming."

Over the past century, average temperatures have increased by 3.5 degrees Celsius in eastern Siberia, the Amur Region and the Primorsky Region, Boris Revich, co-author of a European Commission-sponsored report on the medical ramifications of global warming in Russia, said at a recent news conference.

Over the next 50 years, temperatures will increase by 3 to 4 C in western Siberia, and by 2 to 3 C in the northern European part of Russia, Revich said.

"Temperatures in Russia are growing faster than in the tropics," Revich said.

Roman Vilfand, head of the Federal Meteorological and Environmental Monitoring Service, said at a news conference Wednesday that temperatures were expected to be normal or slightly higher than normal in the upcoming summer months.

The service's official forecasts for next winter will be issued only in late September, and Vilfand's deputy chief, Dmitry Kiktyov, said there was no reason to expect each winter to be warmer than the previous one.

"Even in the midst of a general warming tendency, there can be variations," Kiktyov said. "That is why nobody in Russia is talking about getting rid of fur coats just yet."