As snow and ice melt away into puddles of dirty water months earlier than usual, Russians are asking what’s happened to their once-dreaded winter.
“Temperatures have been eight to nine degrees (Celsius) higher than normal,” said Roman Vilfant, head of Russia’s Gidromettsentr weather monitoring center.
The Izvestia daily reported that St Petersburg’s river Neva, normally locked under ice until spring, had broken its banks and reached the walls of the world-famous Hermitage art gallery.
“March has appeared in mid-winter,” said the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, alongside a story about an ice sculpture exhibition being cancelled when the exhibits melted.
The ferocious conditions of a Russian winter suffered by invading armies under Napoleon and Hitler have made the country’s winters legendary and earned them the nickname “General Winter” among military historians.
But Vilfant said winters in Russia had grown milder in recent years, and no longer fit the old stereotype.
“For the last 20 or 30 years winter in the Moscow region has been getting warmer. Compared to the 1900-1960 period, average temperatures have increased by three degrees C and more ... It is now closer to the idea of a European winter,” he said.
“It is hard to give a single explanation for this, although you can link it to global warming. However, summers have not been getting warmer, they are the same as they were in the middle of the last century.”