December 4, 1996 in Nation/World

Moscow Snowless This Winter Lack Of Hypothermia Deaths Indicates Something Not Right

Baltimore Sun

Muscovites are scratching their hatless heads and wondering where their winter went.

Last month was the warmest November on record in western Russia, and the first “officially” snowless one for Moscow. So instead of waking up to winter wonder each morning, Muscovites have been waking up to winter weirdness.

Garlic stalks and hyacinth shoots are poking through the autumn mulch of suburban gardens. Poplars are turning green on Octyabraskaya Square downtown and the traditional Easter pussy willows are budding all over the countryside.

Hikers report hares in their winter white camouflage fur darting incongruously through the auburn colors of Russian autumn. Sporting goods stores, usually stripped of winter sports equipment by now, have undisturbed displays of gleaming sleds and florescent-colored skis.

Weather reports have nary a mention of hypothermia deaths. In November last year 140 people, mostly drunk, died of exposure on Moscow streets; this year only nine froze to death, say health officials.

November’s temperatures in Moscow averaged 38.3 degrees Fahrenheit - 10 degrees higher than the 28 degrees Fahrenheit norm for the month, said Mark Naischuller, head of research for the Russian Meteorological Center.

And there was no “true snowfall” in November, he said. What fell on Moscow Nov. 26 - a couple of inches of snow - won’t even be mentioned in the weather books, he said. “True” snow has to stay on the ground five days before it registers with Russia’s tough weather experts.

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