Saturday, July 31, 2010

More about Russian Heat Wave

From the New York Times:

This is a country that knows how to handle the cold, swaggering about during the most brutal of winters. But the heat is another story. And there has never been heat like this.

Here is how extreme it has become: Oymyakon in Eastern Siberia is considered one of the coldest places on Earth, with winter temperatures dropping to as low as minus 90 degrees. On Thursday, the thermometer also read 90 degrees. Plus 90. In the evening.

Much of Russia has been reeling. Forest fires have erupted. Drought has ruined millions of acres of wheat. More than 2,000 people have died from drowning in rivers, reservoirs and elsewhere in July and June, often after seeking relief from the heat while intoxicated. In Moscow alone, the number of such deaths has tripled in comparison with last year, officials said.

All week long, temperatures have been soaring to records, and on Thursday, they reached a new high for Moscow, 100 degrees. July has been the hottest month since the city began taking such measurements under the czars, 130 years ago, officials said.

At the Biserovsky Fish Farm in this suburb of Moscow, Ivan Tyurkin trudged along a pier and surveyed the breeding ponds all around him. He did not need a thermometer to figure out that the water was treacherously tepid. Dead trout, drifting like buoys, were evidence enough.

Last month, they were flipping and flopping and leaping, and Mr. Tyurkin was readying for another bountiful harvest. Now, with the weather finding seemingly endless ways of wreaking havoc across the country, the farm was in crisis.

“This is all just very difficult to believe,” Mr. Tyurkin said.

“There has never been a summer like this,” he said. “Never. Not once.”

That is a widely held view in Russia. New York, Washington and many other cities in the United States have certainly suffered from their own heat waves. But most Russians do not have air-conditioners, reasoning that they are not worth the investment given the typical summers here.

As if the heat were not enough, Moscow has lately been coated with a patina of smoke from fires that have broken out in dried-up peat bogs in the suburbs. Throw open a window in a desperate bid to catch a breeze and the unpleasant smell of smoke bounds in. One of the country’s chief medical authorities estimated that walking around Moscow for a few hours was the equivalent of smoking a pack or two of cigarettes.

No comments: