Moscow Sweats the Balmy Winter

Muscovites stroll in snow-less Red Square i i

Muscovites stroll in snow-less Red Square, where the weather is hovering at an unheard-of 50 degree this month. Gregory Feifer, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Gregory Feifer, NPR
Muscovites stroll in snow-less Red Square

Muscovites stroll in snow-less Red Square, where the weather is hovering at an unheard-of 50 degree this month.

Gregory Feifer, NPR

Unusually warm temperatures around the globe this winter have hit Russia. It's hard to believe for January, but there's no snow in Moscow, where residents are complaining about balmy temperatures — even after last year's record freeze all but shut down the city.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

You know if residents of Moscow have snowmobiles they may not have much to comment upon right now, because one of the colder world capitals has no snow in January. Residents say they cannot remember the last time that happened, or rather didn't happen.

NPR's Gregory Feifer reports.

(Soundbite of rain)

GREGORY FEIFER: Rainstorms are unusual for January, but Russia's had a period of unusual weather. Last January was the coldest in almost 30 years, while December was the warmest on record.

(Soundbite of bells ringing)

Kremlin bells peal next to cobblestoned Red Square, where locals and tourists stroll in 50-degree weather. Muscovite Alexei Martinov(ph) says while many are pleased about the reprieve from the cold, the warm temperature has taken everyone by surprise.

Mr. ALEXEI MARTINOV: (Speaking foreign language).

FEIFER: I couldn't have imagined this year would turn out the way it has, he says. January 1st and there's no snow in Moscow, that's a real shock. City authorities has set up an outdoor ice rink on one side of Red Square.

(Soundbite of generators)

But even powerful generators can't keep the rink frozen. Maria Lievesova(ph), one of the employees, explains it had to be closed for the day.

Ms. MARIA LIEVESOVA: (Speaking foreign language).

FEIFER: There's a small layer of water on top that's just not freezing, she says. If it does freeze, we're hoping to open the rink sometime soon. The weather has been a problem for Russian children and of course their parents. The New Year's holidays were recently extended to 10 days during which the city all but shuts down. Many Russians say that's too much enforced leisure time, especially this year. Children used to skating outside have been forced to find other activities, as 10-year-old Dimas Eisov(ph) explains.

Mr. DIMAS EISOV: (Speaking foreign language).

FEIFER: It's boring. We can't go skiing or skating, he says. Instead, we have to watch television, play inside or just take walks around Moscow. Meteorologists say it's not clear if this year's unusual winter is linked to global warming. Tatiana Posnikova(ph), a meteorologist at the government's weather service, says much of central Russia has been hit by warm fronts coming in from the Atlantic Ocean.

Ms. TATIANA POSNIKOVA (Meteorologist, Russia): (Speaking foreign language).

FEIFER: Warm cyclones are following each other in quick succession, she says, and they're not allowing the cold Arctic air that usually descends on Russia to get her from the north. Not everyone is complaining. President Vladimir Putin famously remarked that global warming is a good thing for normally frozen Russia. The government is saving immense on heating and snow clearing bills, and there are others who appear pleased.

(Soundbite of ducks quacking)

Ducks, geese and more exotic birds at Moscow's central zoo are enjoying their big outdoor pond. But zoo director Vladimir Spitsen(ph) says others aren't as happy.

Mr. VLADIMIR SPITSEN (Director, Moscow Zoo): (Speaking foreign language)

FEIFER: The hibernating animals are experiencing problems, he says. Bears and hedgehogs aren't going to sleep and are continuing to eat. The warm weather is throwing off their biological rhythm. And there's another problem, doctors say Moscow's grimy streets and overcast skies may be causing even more depression than usual because there's no snow to reflect what little light there is.

Gregory Feifer, NPR News, Moscow.

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