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EXPLAINED: Why Temperatures In Siberia Are The Same As In Patna, Nashik

By: Kenneth Mohanty


Last Updated: June 29, 2021, 21:31 IST

FILE PHOTO: Burning forests in Russia's Taiga region

FILE PHOTO: Burning forests in Russia's Taiga region

Eastern Europe is grappling with a record-breaking heat wave that experts say just points to the risk that climate change poses to the world

The Russian winter famously defeated Napoleon and the forces of Adolf Hitler, but it is the summer that has made history this year as record high temperatures cause distress among people who are not used to seeing the mercury shoot up above the 30-degree Celsius mark. And not just Russia, countries in Eastern Europe are going through a spell of sultry weather that experts and activists say is unmistakable proof of how global warming is impacting the climate.

How High Are The Temperatures In Russia?

The heat in Russian cities and provinces this summer is literally on a record-breaking spree. When the temperature on June 23 touched 34.8 degrees Celsius, it set the record for the hottest June day since 1901. Not only that, last Tuesday saw Moscow clocking its hottest June 22 in more than 120 years while the previous day was the Russian capital’s hottest June 21 since 1956.

To put that into perspective, Indian cities like Patna in Bihar and Udaipur in Rajasthan recorded temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius on Sunday.

According to an European weather resource, “a heatwave occurs when the daily maximum temperature of more than five consecutive days exceeds the average maximum temperature by 5 degrees Celsius, based on the normal period being 1961–1990”.

The rise in mercury is not limited to the cities only. Siberia, the vast Russian province that stretches into the Arctic wilderness, has seen above-average temperatures, which has been linked to a surge of wildfires. According to the website Arctic Today, “There is an abnormally high number of wildfires in Siberia this June, and parts of the northern regions are recording temperatures more than 15 degrees Celsius hotter than normal.” The report added that this is the “third year in a row that Russia’s Arctic region suffers from huge blazes”.

In fact, the European Union (EU) Commission’s Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space (DG DEFIS) said in a tweet on June 20 that satellites had picked up images of a wildfire in northern Siberia that is “to date, the northernmost wildfire detected in the Polar Circle by the Sentinel satellites in 2021”.

As the mercury zooms in eastern Europe, countries like Bulgaria, Estonia, Romania, etc. are registering temperatures of up to 41 degrees Celsius.

The AccuWeather website said that places like Ukrainian capital Kyiv have already seen temperatures touch 33 degrees Celsius when the city “records temperatures of this magnitude once every two to three years”. As for
Moscow, it said that the city records “only one 32 degrees Celsius or above reading every four years, with no days above 35 degrees Celsius. But this year, with 34.8 degrees Celsius, the Russian capital has come uncomfortably close to breaking that record.

What Is Causing This Temperature Surge?

Experts and activists are sure that such uncommonly high temperatures is nothing but climate change at work. Studies have already pointed out that the Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the global average.

2020 was the hottest year on record globally after 2016, with the decade of the 2010s the hottest decade ever since scientists started measuring the weather. Amid such rise in temperatures, as the heat wave in Siberia becomes a routine affair, experts say that this is undoubtedly the impact of human-induced climate change.

In fact, a report published in May in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal says that the warming Arctic wilderness will make it harder for the world to curb climate change because thawing permafrost and wildfires release greenhouse gases that are not fully accounted for in global emissions agreements.

Experts have also suggested that changes in the jet stream, which is the band of strong wind that typically blows from west to east all across the globe. Weather watchers say that in 2019, the difference in the temperatures of the sea surface between the western and eastern Indian Ocean hit a record high. That in turn, “supercharged” the jet stream and caused “low pressure and extreme late winter warmth over Eurasia”, spilling into spring and reducing “ice and snow cover”. The domino effect of these weather developments finally changed the “amount of solar energy absorbed by land and sea”.

That recent years and decades have seen a rise in temperatures almost everywhere around the globe is also borne out by ‘warming stripes‘, devised by Prof. Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading in the UK. Each stripe in question stands for the average temperature in that country over a year. The World Meteorological Organisation says that “for virtually every country or region, the stripes turn from mainly blue to mainly red in more recent years, illustrating the rise in average temperatures in that country”.

Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The trend globally, as well as for individual countries is that the stripes turn from mainly blue to mainly red in more recent years, illustrating the rise in average temperatures

A Spate Of Drowning Deaths

Meanwhile, reports said that several deaths by drowning were reported amid the heat wave in eastern Europe as people jumped into pools and water bodies to beat the mercury. The Associated Press news agency reported that at least 15 people drowned in Poland in what was the country’s hottest weekend this year with temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius. If the correlation between the heat and drowning seems strange, authorities have said that the accidents are often caused by recklessness and people hitting the water after consuming alcohol.

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first published:June 27, 2021, 18:39 IST
last updated:June 29, 2021, 21:31 IST