It Was 84 Degrees in Northern Russia This Weekend

Illustration for article titled It Was 84 Degrees in Northern Russia This Weekend
Photo: AP

Scattered clouds gave the sunlight a dreamy quality. Still, it got caught in the ripples of the sluggish river, giving it a slight shimmer as it flowed through the city. The mercury cracked 84 degrees Fahrenheit.


Basically the same scenes played out 5,400 miles apart, but while it was just another May day in New Orleans along the banks of the Mississippi River, it was part of a freakish heat wave in Arkhangelsk, a western Russian outpost located on the Northern Dvina River. It was part of a swath of heat that gripped the surrounding region, sending temperatures from just 128 miles south of the Arctic circle all the way to near the Kazakstan border spiraling up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for this time of year.

As Capital Weather Gang notes, the big heat wave comes on the same weekend atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached heights unseen in human history. While they’re separate data points, they both speak to a world whose climate is unraveling.

New Orleans, Miami, and other locations in the Southeast all saw temperatures in the mid- and upper 80s this weekend. Normal, Gulf Coast and Florida kind of stuff. But on the edge of the Arctic circle, the 80-plus degree heat was anything but. Multiple locations in Russia set heat records for this time of year while Finland had its hottest day of the year so far over the weekend. According to Etienne Kapikian, a meteorologist at France’s national weather service who tracks temperature records, the heat continued into the start of the week and intensified in some locales. That includes Yelebuga, a town located about 550 miles east of Moscow, which hit a blistering 91 degrees Fahrenheit, a record for May.

Here’s why the heat has been so high, according to Capital Weather Gang:

The abnormally warm conditions in this region stemmed from a bulging zone of high pressure centered over western Russia. This particular heat wave, while a manifestation of the arrangement of weather systems and fluctuations in the jet stream, fits into what has been an unusually warm year across the Arctic and most of the mid-latitudes.

Indeed, the wave of broken records feels like a broken record. The Arctic is the fastest warming part of the world and it’s events like this that show just what that shift looks like. Other findings showing how everything else is changing from reindeer’s diets to the age of sea ice to the very shape of the landscape. These changes not only upend the lives of people who call the Arctic home, they have very serious implications for people in New Orleans or any other city along the coast. All of this undeniable, except that’s exactly what’s happening.

Managing editor at Earther, writing about climate change, environmental justice, and, occasionally, my cat.


IIRC it was even worse last year. They had a couple days with temperatures in the 60s and 70s degrees Fahrenheit on the Arctic coastline, and in the 90s within 50 miles of the Arctic shore.

The Arctic is the fastest warming part of the world and it’s events like this that show just what that shift looks like.

It won’t take much more a shift, either, to cause serious ecological change. You only need 1-2 months with average temperatures above 50 degrees F to get forests moving in to displace the tundra.