A "Russian" December?

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  • A "Russian" December?
    03.12.2010 09:14

    The extraordinarily cold and snowy weather gripping the UK has been described as a “Russian” or “Siberian” winter. 

    Notwithstanding the fact that it began at the end of autumn, this is not too unreasonable a comparison for places where temperatures are dropping below -20 degrees Celsius, such Altnaharra in Sutherland.  

    Even in more southerly regions of the country temperatures of -10 degrees and lower are being recorded overnight where snow is laying and the wind drops, not far from breaking records for early December.  

    However, Russia can leave those sorts of temperatures in its wake. The coldest permanently inhabited place in the world is probably Oymyakon in the depths of Siberia, where temperatures are currently bottoming out at around -60 degrees Celsius, and have in the past fallen below -70 degrees. 

    Russia has a continental climate, with most of it at least 400 kilometres from the potential moderating effect of a relatively mild ocean. The British Isles have a warmer climate than might be expected for their latitude because of the proximity of the Atlantic. 

    In fact, Moscow is at about the same latitude as Glasgow and is much colder during the winter. The same circumstances, however, mean that it is also hotter in summer time. Being a massive land mass, most of it is far from the cooling effect of ocean breezes at a time of year when the sea is cooler than the land. 

    The summer of 2010 was particularly hot, and July was the hottest on record in parts of Russia, with the temperature soaring above 38 degrees Celsius in Moscow and breaching the 35 degree mark every day for nearly two weeks. 

    At about the same time the summer in the UK was taking a turn for the worse, and the events were related. A huge high pressure to the east caused a block in the atmosphere and caused a constant feed of hot southerly winds to waft across Russia, all the way from the deserts of the Middle East. Meanwhile northwest Europe was forced to sit under a succession of wet low pressure systems. 

    With the World Cup having just been awarded to Russia, players and coaches might hope that there is no repeat of such heat in 2018, or it might be more exhausting than Qatar in 2022, where at least the stadia are planned to be air-conditioned.

    By: Stephen Davenport