Both ABC and CNN news reports on Moscow’s unfamiliar winter, there was hardly any snow.
The city which is usually covered in snow for four to five months a year, with February, normally bringing in heavy snow in Moscow had “barely any snow cover in the whole of February” making this season a once in a “century occurrence” says their local meteorologist the CNN article reads (llyushina M. & Miller, B., 2020).
Winters would usually run from December to the end of February.
According to the CNN article:
- This winter is the hottest in 140 years of meteorological observations, beating the 2015-2016 winter record by 1.3 C (2.3 F).
- Moscow’s winter temperature is 7.5°C (13.5°F) above average.
- March 2020, started with +7 to 8 degrees C above average, making this temperature a month ahead of the calendar.
- Abnormally high temperatures of +5 to 10°C and even +15 to 18°C above the normal are recorded in northern Siberia and Yakutia, Elena Volsyuk, and in some parts of the country, a meteorologist said.
- Most of Moscow was snow-free by the end of February and maximum snow depth recorded was only 4 inches (10-11 cm) which is 2.7 inches (7cm) below any other year’s maximum snow depth.
- This unusually hot winter brings some good news to it – lower power bills due to the short winter.
- Europe also experienced the warmest winter season since 1855 when the record started according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service. Northern and Eastern Europe record 3.4°C (6°F) warmer than the usual winter temperatures.
Is this warm winter caused by climate change or something else?
ABC News says that scientists linked this warm winter to the Arctic Oscillation, a phenomenon influencing the weather pattern in the Arctic and refers to a swing between high and low pressure over the Arctic (Reevell, 2020).
This year, an extreme low-pressure system has settled for an unusually long time over the North Pole, trapping the cold air and bringing in warm temperatures to the south causing a warm winter over Russia and parts of Europe. This prolonged low-pressure over the Arctic will be the subject of research for scientists and whether this is linked to climate change (Reevell, 2020).
This unusually warm winter is an extreme event and made extreme by climate change and global warming trend according to Carlo Buontempo, Director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (llyushina M. & Miller, B., 2020).
However, this warming trend poses a more serious threat. The thawing of permafrost.
Two-thirds of Russia sits on permafrost and it is melting away rapidly. Russia’s Artic forest fire during the summer has left sinkholes in places like Yakutia. The melting of permafrost worries scientists worldwide as these large amounts of methane and carbon trapped in it could escape, accelerating climate change (llyushina M. & Miller, B., 2020).
ABC News reads that Global temperatures have been rising for decades and the last 6 years have been the warmest on record. Scientists have warned that rising temperatures will not only bring in more warm winters but also more extreme weather (Reevell, 2020).
President Vladimir Putin who has doubted climate change in the past is now acknowledging its impacts on the country’s infrastructure (llyushina M. & Miller, B., 2020).
Russia, a 4th biggest GHG emitter has joined the Paris Agreement. However, proposed legislation to impose quotas on emissions was “squashed by largest companies after industry pushback”, the CNN article reads (llyushina M. & Miller, B., 2020).
Climate change is indeed already happening as scientists have been telling us and the signs are telling much like the symptoms of a pandemic. We are already seeing it. Failure to act early through climate adaptation and mitigation will bring in more catastrophes and damages in the future.