Russia’s capital has seen record high temperatures in December with snow not predicted until the end of the month.
Moscow hit 6.2 degrees Celsius (43.2 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday, the warmest recorded temperature for that date.
The city is often blanketed with snow in December, but unseasonably warm temperatures have cast a gloomy pall over the streets decorated with festive lights for the New Year holiday.
The unusually warm weather has prompted public discussion about the climate crisis, a subject that is not often a priority in a country that heavily depends on hydrocarbon exports.
In Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual press conference last week, a journalist asked about what risks climate change poses to the country.
Putin acknowledged rising global temperatures, but cast doubt on the human role in climate change.
“We know that in the history of the Earth there have been periods of warming and cooling, and this might depend on the global processes in the universe,” he said. “A small tilt of the Earth’s axis and its orbit around the sun can lead to and have already led to very serious climate changes on the Earth, which had dramatic consequences – good or bad, they were still dramatic.”
“And it is happening again now. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to work out exactly how humankind affects climate change. But we cannot stay idle either, I agree with my colleagues. We should make our best efforts to prevent dramatic changes in the climate,” he added.
Russia is a signatory to the Paris Agreement on controlling greenhouse-gas emissions, but the official Russian response to climate change has at times been slow. This summer, dozens of Russian cities were covered with smoke from wildfires that swept through the Arctic region.
Moscow, however, may still have a chance for a white Christmas. Orthodox Christmas is observed on January 7 and the state meteorological agency said an extensive cyclone from Eastern Europe may alter air flows in the region, bringing cooler weather.
As the cyclone forms, the agency said, it will “deepen the tropospheric hollow above Central Russia, thereby giving hope for the return of ‘winter’ in the region.”
The massive outdoor ice-skating at VDNKh, a park in northern Moscow that is also home to the capital’s principal weather station, remained open for business on Wednesday.