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Winter finally back in European Russia

January 13, 2014, 19:53 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Arkadiy Kirnos

MOSCOW, January 13. /ITAR-TASS/. Hardly getting over the eight-day New Year and Christmas holidays, Russians are set for renewed celebrating tonight, this time - the Old New Year - a date other countries are hardly familiar with. Having partied at traditional New Year get-togethers under the Gregorian calendar, Russians and people of some other former Soviet republics still stick to the ‘old-style’ New Year, according to the Julian calendar, which the country abandoned as early as 1918.

This time the informal celebration has coincided with an important occasion - normal winter weather is making its way back to the European part of Russia as well as the European countries. And it looks really determined in doing so: after standing at zero Monday morning, tonight’s temperatures are forecast to drop to 15 degrees below zero in Moscow. Meanwhile, the Russian East is already stricken with record-breaking freeze: the temperature in the Primorsky Territory is down to below 40 degrees Clesius, while in Yakutia it is approaching the minus 60 mark.

Like other Europeans, people in European Russia, its border in the east running from north to south along the Ural Mountains, are sick and tired of unusually warm and wet weather that in some places caused spring flowers to emerge from the ground. While Americans and Canadians were freezing, Russians were longing for a cold, snowy winter. Lovers of traditional winter sports like skiing, skating and sledging had to seek other kinds of entertainment for winter holidays.

Snow melted away almost entirely amid the unusually warm weather, and the following cold can destroy plantings at summer residences and trees in the cities. In Moscow and St. Petersburg higher-than-normal temperatures caused some plants that normally wake up in spring to bloom and blossom in early January. “The lilac has its buds swollen. Garlic, peonies and daffodils have cropped up at urban residents’ countryside summer retreats - the dachas - as if it were early spring,” the Director of St. Petersburg Botanic Garden, Vasily Yarmishko says.

Currant and alder are also set for blossom, which normally takes place in late February and March, says the research associate of the Peter the Great Botanical Gardens, Yuri Kalugin.

The warmer-than-usual winter is harmful for plants, said the head of the climate programme of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Russia, Aleksey Kokorin. “In winter plants should sleep. If they wake up, buds and even leaves emerge, which is very bad - this is a kind of false start. Not all plants can restart normally in springtime. Some may die,” he added.

But it is the following cold spell that bears the worst risks. “Birds suffer from sudden cold as their food - bunches of mountain ash and seeds - may be covered in ice,” Kokorin said.

Abnormal winter warmth breaks the life cycle of all plants, the Novyie Izvestia daily quotes the head of the Moscow City Society for Nature Conservation, Galina Morozova, as saying: “It is not only garden trees and bushes that are under threat but also those growing within cities. Nothing can protect their root systems - neither snow, nor fallen leaves that were cleared away in the autumn.”

Amid the warm winter Moscow Zoo animals lapsed into depression. Furred animals (foxes, wolves) and hoofed mammals (horses, goats, musk oxen and zebras) suffered most, a specialist in mammals, Igor Yegorov, told the Izvestia daily.

“For winter time the wolves and foxes get what we call the down — a warm tier under the fur that helps them stay warm,” Yegorov explained. “But amid the wet and rainy weather the down gets wet, and animals easily freeze and catch a cold. For the same reason they now prefer to stay in and seek dry warm corners in their roofed cages.”

The overly warm winter inflicted losses on skiing resorts, as the diffusion of artificial snow is only possible with temperatures below zero. Outdoor skating rinks are closed as well.

The lack of true Russian winter spoiled New Year celebrations. The much-expected winter entertainments had to be called off in many regions. The Russian Winter capital-2014, Vologda, cancelled several events on the river, as ice turned out to be dangerously thin. Skidoo race, snowboarding competitions and a family skiing relay race also failed, while in Kostroma the ice-sculpting contest was postponed for absence of snow.

In the meantime, Eastern Siberia and the Far East are bracing for record-breaking frosts. Big freeze has already befallen some districts of the Republic of Yakutia, where temperatures dipped to -55-57 degrees. In the coming days the temperature may fall to under 60 degrees below zero. The town of Aldan in southern Yakutia even faced a critical fuel situation - the town found itself with only a one-day coal reserve in the two boiler houses amid a -47 freeze. It had been expected that this amount of coal would last for five days, but now it has proved too wet to burn. Emergency measures are now underway.

Bad frosts also affected the areas that suffered devastating floods last year - the Amur Region, the Khabarovsk Territory and the Jewish Autonomous Region, where temperatures fall to -45 degrees at night, rising to no more than -30 in daytime.


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