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Snow on strike in the world’s coldest region, as temperatures in Siberia go 4 to 12C above the norm

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03 November 2021


Bare ground outside the town of Olyokminsk, south of Yakutia 

Videos and pictures show the unseasonal lack of a snow cover in Olyokminsk, Mirny and Oymyakon, the world's Pole of Cold, at a time of year when residents in the planet’s coldest permanently inhabited region are usually donning their thick fur coats. 

Yakutia - also known as the Republic of Sakha - is the largest entity of the Russian Federation, an area almost the size of India, renowned for diamonds and permafrost. 

Lyubov, 38, a local librarian in Olyokminsk, said: ‘It’s really dusty here now. We have snowfalls, and the ground is frozen, but the snow cover - typical for this time of the year for us - does not settle. The snow keeps thawing. 

‘The air temperature is also warm for this time of year. It’s been holding at close to zero or just above it. 

‘As my mother Tatiana says, she doesn’t remember such a warm and snowless autumn. She is 69 now, in her younger years she’d be wearing heavy fur coats and fur boots by now, the river would be frozen solid, and there would  be a firm cover of snow on the ground.’

Snow on strike in Yakutia; videos filmed in November 2021 show bare ground outside the town of Olyokminsk in southern Yakutia, and very little snow - very unusual for this time of year - inside Olyokminsk

In Mirny it is colder - around minus 12C - but locals report an unusual lack of settled snow until Sunday, and forecasts suggest the mild weather, by Siberian standards, will continue. 

Air temperature in Oimyakon, the coldest permanently inhabited settlement in earth is at its usual for November -31C. Frost covers trees and ground, but there is no snow.  

Temperatures of up to 12C above the norm are forecast for Siberia this week, and other regions across Russia’s 11 time zones are also abnormally mild, said Dr Roman Vilfand, scientific director of the country’s Hydrometeorological Centre.

'Anomalies on Friday and Saturday will be double-digit in Moscow, as well as in the Vladimir and Ryazan regions,' he said. 

'An 8C degree anomaly covers the entire centre of European Russia, the entire Volga region, the Urals, all of Western Siberia, the northern half of the Krasnoyarsk Territory with 12 degree anomalies and Yakutia.' 

Snow fails to settle during Cop26 in world’s coldest region in latest sign of climate change

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Residents of Oymyakon, The Pole of Cold (above) and Mirny in Yakutia report no to very little snow this November

Mikhail Zheleznyak, director of the Permafrost Institute of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told YSIA that in the past half century average temperatures have warmed by up to 4C. The warmer conditions cause the thawing of permafrost. 

‘The climate has changed and will continue to change,’ he said. ‘But the most intense changes are taking place in the southern part of the permafrost zone - where we see the idleness and subsidence of permafrost. 

‘Now it comes to central Yakutia, where the ice is located close to the surface. The depth of seasonal thawing here is increasing.’

The trend poses ‘serious consequences’ for Russia where some two-thirds of the country comprises permafrost, he said. 

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