"Moscow becomes Voronezh". How are heat, floods and snowfalls related to climate change?

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"Moscow becomes Voronezh". How are heat, floods and snowfalls related to climate change?
"Moscow becomes Voronezh". How are heat, floods and snowfalls related to climate change?

The summer of 2021 turned out to be exhaustingly hot for many. Temperature records were regularly updated throughout the central part of Russia. Only in Moscow, the upper temperature bar has been updated several times. The maximum temperature was 34.8 degrees.

Climate change has been talked about throughout the world over the past decades. Now they are becoming more noticeable - and not only due to heat waves, but also due to weather force majeure. Since the 90s, the number of natural disasters has increased several times. The area of all landscape fires in 2020, according to Greenpeace estimates, was 1.5% of the country's area. And the Ministry of Emergency Situations counted the damage from environmental emergencies in Russia for the same year in the amount of 12 billion rubles.

This year has also been fruitful for all kinds of disasters. Bend our fingers: unusually abundant snow in the capital in winter, forest fires in Yakutia (more than 7 million hectares of forest were destroyed - comparable to the territory of Georgia), floods in the south … Are all these really the results of global climate change? We asked the most burning questions to forecasters and researchers of atmospheric phenomena.

Will it be hot every summer now?

"The reason for the recent abnormal heat in the European part of Russia is the so-called blocking anticyclone," explains Vladimir Semenov, head of the climatology laboratory at the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences. that brings rainfall and coolness. " However, this phenomenon in itself is not new, the expert emphasizes: "Such anticyclones are formed constantly, we have known about them since the time we began to study the dynamics of the atmosphere."

It is too early to talk about the connection between this unusual summer, warming in the Arctic and rising temperatures in the World Ocean. More research is needed, according to experts from the World Meteorological Organization. But periods of constant heat will visit us more often. Scientists at the University of Bern have calculated that the probability of heat waves has increased 20 times over the past decades, and one of the most common reasons is precisely blocking anticyclones.

Cool and warm seasons will continue to alternate, says Roman Vilfand, head of the Russian Hydrometeorological Center. But the weather regime as a whole is changing: “One winter can be abnormally warm, the other abnormally cold. This happens. on-Don, and so on. Heat cycles are observed - a downpour or simply abnormally warm weather, similar to the weather in the south of Russia. Only in the south everyone is used to it, and we still have to adapt."

Will there be a habitual change of seasons? Will only summer and autumn / spring remain?

“Already now we can say that the duration of the winter period - this means a steady transition through zero degrees towards a decrease - is decreasing, - explains Roman Vilfand. - At least seven, in some regions - by 10-15 days. But the seasons themselves are nowhere to be found. There will be winter, and summer, and autumn. The fact is that the variability of summer temperatures is two times less than winter. In winter, the weather depends on the direction of the transfer of air masses: if the air comes from the south, it is warm, if from the north, it is cold, if from the west - warm and humid. Therefore, the variability is great. And in summer, the solar energy always neutralizes these fluctuations."

What else besides heat does climate change bring with it?

"We see that the very nature of precipitation is changing," says Vladimir Semyonov. "In the European part of Russia, there are less light, but prolonged rains, but short-term heavy rainfalls occur more often. That is, first a downpour, then there is a heat for a while, then vice versa. And this is just one of the indicators that the climate is changing. Such "behavior" is more characteristic of the southern territories, like Rostov-on-Don or Voronezh."

How is increased precipitation related to warming? Oleg Anisimov, head of the Climate Change Research Department of the State Hydrological Institute of Roshydromet, explains: “Water vapor accumulates in the atmosphere. The colder, the less. And now we have a constant mode of small precipitation. But when it gets warmer, it's like our bucket grows in size. While it is accumulating, there is no precipitation. Then this bucket turns over - and situations of flash flooding arise. Remember Krymsk. When precipitation goes and fills the floodplain of rivers and so on."

In general, meteorologists record that there is more moisture in the atmosphere: by 7% for each additional degree. This trend leads to the fact that winters in the European part will become more humid, with heavy snowfalls (remember the Moscow snow walls of last winter). At the same time, in the spring, this snow will melt and literally flood cities - unless an effective drainage system is established.

Not only more showers can be expected, but storms as well. Squall winds, hurricanes and tornadoes occur when heated air masses come into contact and interact with a cold front. Consider, for example, the hurricane in Moscow at the end of May 2017. Then 18 people died. “Previously, we had almost no such hurricane winds, but now they have begun to recur,” emphasizes Roman Vilfand. “On June 30 of the same year, Moscow was hit by the strongest downpour in almost 100 years. This has never happened before.”

Is the weather getting unpredictable? Will it be more difficult to predict it?

On the one hand, no. Climate models are constantly being improved and the accuracy of forecasts is steadily increasing. Today we can predict the weather for five days as well as 40 years ago - for a day. A useful forecast can be made for nine to ten days. Today, multi-variable climate equations are calculated on powerful supercomputers. More weather events are recorded - for example, with the help of drones that can patrol inaccessible places.

But no matter how perfect the technique is, it is limited by the very chaos of the atmosphere. Even minor changes in wind and temperature fluctuations can change the whole picture, and hopes for a cloudless vacation will be spoiled. "We understand what is happening in the blocking anticyclone, but it is problematic to predict when it will arise and especially when it will collapse, because these processes are associated with nonlinear dynamics, with bifurcation in a dynamical system, so it is very difficult to predict when the system will reach this point." - explains Vladimir Semyonov.

Are there regions most affected by climate change?

“The main risk in our country is not even droughts or heat waves, but the thawing of permafrost,” says Oleg Anisimov. “Economically, this can cause colossal damage. Let's say a fuel leak in Norilsk in 2020. There were certainly engineering omissions. the structure stood with them for 30 years. And it would have stood further if not for the thawing of the permafrost. And even more such disasters can be expected, because the permafrost will inevitably thaw. " Due to the thawing of permafrost, the infrastructure of many northern cities will have to be rebuilt, the expert believes: "We will need a different foundation, a different road surface."

At the same time, the thawing of soils, frozen for centuries, spurs even greater heating of the earth's surface.“A huge amount of methane is released into the air,” explains Oleg Anisimov. “This gas is much more efficient than carbon dioxide. It absorbs long-wave energy from the Earth 10–20 times more strongly. And this leads to warming of the surface air layer. the surface warms up and thawing occurs faster. The whole structure of the soil is changing."

Serious changes await both the coastal regions, and those areas that are located near large rivers, and agricultural regions. Vladimir Semyonov suggests that heavy rains in Crimea, which led to floods, are associated, among other things, with an increase in sea temperature. "Our calculations show that there would be no precipitation that much at a surface temperature of the 1980s," he says. "Where there is a lot of water, there will be even more water," says Oleg Anisimov. "And where there is little water, there will be even less. Droughts will occur in grain-growing areas. But Siberia, the great Siberian rivers, their runoff increases."

Are there any advantages for us in climate change?

On the one hand, heat stress exacerbates some diseases, especially cardiovascular diseases. For example, during the heat wave in the summer of 2003, an excess mortality rate of 70,000 cases was recorded in Europe. According to American scientists, over ten years the average daily temperature in Queensland has increased from 20.9 ° C to 21.7 ° C, and the annual number of hospitalizations for cardiovascular diseases has almost tripled.

On the other hand, the cold still kills many more people than the heat. A recent article in The Lancet analyzed data on more than 74 million deaths in 13 countries between 1985 and 2012. Of these, 5.4 million were associated with hypothermia and other consequences of cold weather, and only 311,000 - with overheating. "Climate mitigation in the densely populated European territory of Russia is, rather, a positive factor," - said Vladimir Semyonov.

There may be benefits for the economy as well. Warming is leading to the formation of new fertile areas and the melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean, which expands opportunities for trade and mining. The conditions for navigation along the Northern Sea Route are becoming easier: due to the melting of ice, it will be available for most of the year, and in 20 years it will no longer be necessary to resort to the help of icebreakers. And using the northern route almost halves the route to Japan, Korea and China. In addition, more areas will become suitable for agriculture.

What should we prepare for in the future? And How?

The climate in Russia is diverse, which means that one can expect that our country will fully experience all the vagaries of a changing climate. Moreover, in Russia it is warming 2.5 times faster than on the rest of the planet. This is in part due to the arctic intensification, in which the shrinking of the ice surface reduces the ability of the earth's surface to reflect the sun's rays. At the same time, the soil accumulates more heat.

Meteorologists agree that a stormy time is approaching us, which threatens with a change in the relief, destruction of buildings and damage to roads. But life will also change due to secondary consequences. The northern regions, with their temperate climates, will become much more attractive and comfortable for life, which means that migration will inevitably increase. According to Fuad Aleskerov, director of the HSE International Center for Analysis and Choice of Decisions, up to 1.2 billion people will take part in the global resettlement from south to north.

All this is a good reason to think now about how to slow down the onset of a turbulent time. Or at least soften it.

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