Russia burns in hottest summer on record

It’s not only North America that is suffering one of the hottest summers on record (National Geographic News: 2010 to Be One of Hottest Years on Record). Russia has been enduring weeks of oppressive heat, now worsened by spontaneous peat and forest fires that are pumping smoke into the air.

While millions are gasping, hundreds of people trying to cool off have drowned–and Russia’s crops are shriveling.


This satellite image of smoke and fires in western Russia was released by NASA today. Below is an earlier NASA image of the fires in Siberia by NASA’s MODIS Rapid Response Team.

Siberia fires.jpg

According to Earth Times, the month of July has been Russia’s hottest since records started 130 years ago, with temperatures in the range of 39 degrees Celsius (102 F). “The heat has led to devastating fires across the country. An estimated 20,000 blazes have burned down some 400,000 hectares of forest in the last few weeks–the equivalent of more than half a million football fields,” Earth Times said.

Crews across the Moscow region have had to deal with around 60 fire outbreaks, Sky News reported today. “The conditions they are working in are intense, the earth literally smoulders and the heat of the sun combined with the fires is almost unbearable,” Sky added.

“The worst smog to hit Moscow in almost a decade has sent pollution soaring 10 times above safe levels,” the English-language Moscow Times reported today. “Moscow hit an absolute temperature record Monday with 37.4 degrees Celsius and headed for another high on Wednesday [today],” the news site added.

Earlier, the Moscow Times said high temperatures had damaged a third of land under cultivation and forced Russia to declare a state of emergency in 23 regions. “Grain prices may double this year because of the drought, according to the Grain Producers’ Union.”

Russia’s worst drought in 13 decades became a political issue last week as the Kremlin held an emergency meeting to combat the impacts of  a month-long heat wave that is shriveling crops, forcing up food prices, and causing hundreds of drownings as Russians jump into rivers to escape heat funneled up from North Africa, the Voice of America reported.

“In St. Petersburg, almost on the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska, residents are cooling off by jumping into normally icy canals. Across Russia, almost 2,000 people have drowned since June, well higher than normal,” the VOA added.

Posted by David Braun

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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn