Dangerous Natural Phenomena Hits Russia in 2006

This year Russia registered the highest number of unfavorable and dangerous natural phenomena in the history of meteorological observation.

Roman Vilfand, director of Russia's hydrometeorology centre, said between January and November 371 dangerous natural phenomena - including extreme cold, heat waves, strong winds and driving rains - were registered throughout Russia.

"The year also ends unusually with abnormally warm weather in late November and early December, when plants even began to bloom in some areas," Vilfand said.

Earlier, the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring said extreme deviations in weather patterns were observed before, but over the past decade they have become more and more frequent.

Following near-record low temperatures during last winter's cold spell, which saw the mercury plummet to - 31'C (-23.8'F) Jan 19 - one degree above the all-time low for Moscow - European Russia experienced record warm temperatures this month.

On Dec 15 Moscow saw an all time record high winter temperature for the Russian capital, as the mercury climbed to a maximum of 8.6'C (47.48'F) in comparison with the previous record-high temperature of 8.1 'C (46.5'F), set on Feb 17, 1989.

But Vilfand said this year's unusually warm start of winter in Russia should not be associated with global warming. Rather, he said, the reason for this year's unusual weather was a strong anticyclone over Greenland, which 'orchestrated' the weather over European Russia.

The Russian ministry of emergency situations said dangerous natural phenomena would keep increasing in 2007, consequently resulting in a five percent year-on- year growth of emergency situations caused by natural calamities.

This year Russia registered 276 natural emergency situations, while the ministry predicts a figure of 285 for next year.

Last week, Minister of Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu highlighted the issue of natural calamities, saying their number more than doubled in Russia over the last 10 years as a result of global warming.

The minister said the situation in Russia's northern regions was the most alarming because permafrost was melting.

"Over the last 30 years, the average depth of melting in the permafrost zone increased by 20 cm and keeps progressing. If the melting continues, the foundations of homes, communication lines and gas pipelines could begin sinking," he said.

Shoigu said a very serious situation with glaciers remains in the North Caucasus, saying that the tragic 2002 situation in the Karmadon Gorge in North Ossetia could be repeated.

The Kolka glacier collapsed Sep 20, 2002 in North Ossetia, burying 116 people under tonnes of rock, mud and ice, including a film crew led by one of the country's most popular actors and directors, Sergei Bodrov Jr.   


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