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Unprecedented Heat in Moscow

Russia is in flames...

Swathes of central Russia are still in flames - with firefighters tackling hundreds of new fires every day. At least 50 people are now known to have died. And it's likely to be several days before the scorching temperatures show any sign of cooling down. RT's Maria Finoshina reports.

Extreme heat and wildfires have led to a blanket of smog over Moscow

Global climate change is partly to blame for the abnormally hot and dry weather in Moscow, cloaked in a haze of smoke from wildfires, say researchers.

The UK Met Office said there are likely to be more extreme high temperatures in the future.

Experts from the environmental group WWF Russia have also linked climate change and hot weather to raging wildfires around the Russian capital.

Meteorologists say severe conditions may linger for several more days.

The Moscow health department said earlier that the number of people dying daily in the city had reached about 700 - twice the usual number.

Jeff Knight, a climate variability scientist at the UK Met Office, attributed the situation in Moscow to a number of factors, among them greenhouse gas concentrations, which are steadily rising.

The recent El Nino, a climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean and affects weather around the world, and local weather patterns in Russia may have also contributed to this summer's abnormal conditions.

"The Russian heatwave is related to a persistent pattern of circulation drawing air from the south and east (the very warm steppes)," said Dr Knight.

"Circulation anomalies tend to create warm and cool anomalies: while it has been very hot in western Russia, it has been cooler than average in adjacent parts of Siberia that lie on the other side of the high pressure system where Arctic air is being drawn southwards.

"Some long-term records have been broken - for example the highest daily temperature in Moscow. We expect more extreme high temperatures as the climate changes. This means that when weather fluctuations promote high temperatures… there is more likelihood of records being broken."

The head of the climate and energy programme at WWF Russia, Alexei Kokorin, said the abnormal temperatures soaring to up to 40C increased the likelihood of wildfires around the capital.

And though this summer in Moscow had proven harsh for people and animals alike, it was possible that temperatures would continue to rise over the years to come, he warned.

"We have to get ready to fight such fires in the future because there is a great possibility that such a summer will be repeated. This tendency won't stop in the coming 40 years or so, until the greenhouse gas emissions are reduced," he said.

"In a few decades, fires may affect the main forest regions of Russia. Of course, there are a lot less people living there, but we could lose a lot more forests.

"We can now say that the wave of abnormal phenomena that the rest of the world has been experiencing has finally reached central Russia," Dr Kokorin added.

Temperatures have been record-high for weeks and smoke from wildfires has driven airborne pollutants levels to the worst ever recorded in the capital and the Moscow region.

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