A climate tragedy: Russia’s death toll likely to exceed 15,000

What does a world with one degree of warming look like?  

Something like the unfolding tragedy in Russia.  

Buried within the middle pages of most newspapers you may have come across some scattered references to the Russian heat wave, forest fires and drought. It is a sad indictment of our media that what is perhaps one of the worst human tragedies of this year has barely received sporadic and insubstantial coverage.  

Russia: a climate tragedy  

Reports from Russia indicate that the death toll resulting from fires, accidents and from the heat itself will most likely exceed 15,000. Climate Progress reports:

“The heat wave began on June 27. These grim statistics suggest that in Moscow alone, the Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010 has likely killed at least 7,000 people so far. A plot of the departure of July 2010 temperatures from average (Figure 1) shows that the area of Russia experiencing incredible heat is vast, and that regions southeast of Moscow have the hottest, relative to average. Moscow is the largest city in Russia, with a population just over ten million, but there are several other major cities in the heat wave region. These include Saint Petersburg, Russia’s 2nd most populous city (4.6 million), and Nizhny Novgorod, Russia’s 5th most populous city (1.3 million people.) Thus, the Russian population affected by extreme heat is at least double the population of Moscow, and the death toll in Russia from the 2010 heat wave is probably at least 15,000, and may be much higher..”

As noted yesterday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has no qualms in laying the blame on global warming.

Grain harvest devastated, people flee Moscow and fires threaten nuclear facilities

The brief references in Western media due scant justice to the scale of the tragedy engulfing Russia.

Together they give some sense of the enormity of what is taking place…  

So bad are is the smoke from the fires that over 100,000 people have fled Moscow:

“A record number of passengers flew out of Moscow’s airports as residents scrambled to escape thick, acrid smoke from bushfires east of the capital that has doubled the death rate.

More than 104,400 people flew out of Moscow on Sunday, topping the previous record of 101,000, according to the Federal Air Transportation Agency.

The heatwave that has affected Moscow since June combined with smoke nearly doubled the city’s death rate to 700 a day from 360-380 in normal conditions, Interfax reported, citing Andrei Seltsovsky, head of the city’s public health department…”

Due to the heat and extreme drought conditions, there are fears Russia’s grain harvest could decline by 38%:

“Russia’s grain harvest in 2010 may total just 60 million metric tons, or 38% less than last year, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said at a government presidium meeting.

“According to the latest Agriculture Ministry forecasts, the harvest will be much more modest than we assumed at the beginning of the year. It could total 65 or even 60 million tons,” Putin said, adding that Russia’s domestic grain requirements for 2010 amounted to 78 million tons…”

The Russian’s may not starve, but as a consequence food prices across the globe will rise. The world’s poor will feel the impact directly, as many will struggle to feed themselves and their families.

Of concern, the fires are threatening nuclear facilities:

Emergency regulations over the threat of spreading wildfires were enforced late on Monday in the town of Ozersk in the Chelyabinsk region, where one of Russia’s largest nuclear-waste plants is located.

The Mayak plant, which makes tritium and radioisotopes from decommissioned weapons and waste from nuclear reactors, is about 80 kilometres (about 50 miles) from the town of Snezhinsk where a forest fire has recently threatened a major nuclear research center.

While more than 230,000 emergency service personal have been deployed to fight fires raging across the country:

Hundreds of thousands of fire-fighters reinforced with army troops on Saturday battled forest fires sweeping across central Russia, burning down villages and claiming some 30 lives.

With more than 120 hectares (about 300,000 acres) in flames, 238,000 fire-fighters were deployed in 14 regions, along with 25,000 vehicles and 226 aircraft, the emergency situations ministry said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called the fires “a natural disaster,” in televised comments on receiving a report from Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov with some 2,000 troops joining efforts to tackle the blazes.

Is global warming to blame?

Obviously we can’t point at Russia’s heat wave and say with 100% certainty that global warming is to blame. However, the events in Russia were predicted. As Canadian journalist Gwynne Dyer notes in a recent article notes:

“It cannot be proved that the wildfires now devastating western Russia are evidence of global warming. Once-in-a-century extreme weather events happen, on average, once a century. But the Russian response is precisely what you would expect when global warming really starts to bite: Moscow has just banned all grain exports for the rest of this year…”

And for those who doubt the ability of climate scientists to make predictions:

“…Late last year, Britain’s Hadley Centre for Climate Change produced a world map showing how different countries will be affected by the rise in average global temperature over the next 50 years. The European countries that the Hadley map predicts will be among the hardest hit — Greece, Spain and Russia — are precisely the ones have suffered most from extreme heat, runaway forest fires and wildfires in the past few years.

The main impact of global warming on human beings will be on the food supply, and eating is a non-negotiable activity.

Today Russia, tomorrow the world.”

22 thoughts on “A climate tragedy: Russia’s death toll likely to exceed 15,000

  1. “t is a sad indictment of our media that what is perhaps one of the worst human tragedies of this year has barely received sporadic and insubstantial coverage.”
    And yet, the non-event “Climategate” made front page…
    I doubt most things will ever be 100% certain until retrospect steps in, however, if you look at NASA’s temperature anomaly time series, Russia is noticeably the much warmer on average than most over regions… It’s hard to conclude that climate change is unlikely to be involved.

  2. […] Watching the Deniers on the extent of the tragedy in Russia. […]

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      And I see you:


      “It will probably come as a surprise to most Americans, but the winter just finished was the fifth warmest on record, worldwide.

      Oh, sure, nearly two-thirds of the country can dispute that from personal experience of a colder-than-normal season.

      But while much of the United States was colder than usual, December-February – climatological winter – continued the long string of unusual warmth on a global basis.

      And parts of the United States did join in, with warmer-than-normal readings for the season in New England and the Pacific Northwest. Indeed, Maine had its third warmest winter on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports.

      NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center reports that worldwide the average temperature for winter was 54.9 degrees Fahrenheit (12.7 Celsius).”

    • Feel free to follow the link to NASA that I previously added. Click the most recent data point (2006) of the global temperature anomaly… The northern high latitudes are certain on the most noticeable rise.
      Also check out http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/
      We’re hitting record temps Roger… only a fool would hold onto the denial, “it’s global cooling!” rubbish.
      I much more enjoy discussing what you label as the benefits of global warming. Come on Roger, where’s the fertile Sahara jargon?

    • I might also add that Prof. Scott Mandia tweeted this article where the Russian Meteorological Center state that there has been nothing like this in the past 1000 years.

  3. Crispy says:

    Well yes. Indeed. But it is still just weather, isn’t it? I like to laugh at the hapless goobers who populate the WUWT pages talking about the snow piling up in their backyards in Montana, and who then go on to ask for a little more good ol’ CO2 to keep the frost off their begonias. It’s the long term trends we have to point to, isn’t it? Not the weather in a particular region in a particular week.

    Surely we need to be consistent in our message. This catastrophe can’t be sheeted home to global warming, but we can confidently say we are going to see more frequent events like this as average temperatures rise. So the one in a hundred year drought, or heat wave, or wild-fire, will gradually become the one in twenty year event, or the one in five.

    Perhaps it’s a subtle distinction (which the press will want to ignore) but it’s important, yes? We should choose our words more carefully than the denialati.

  4. Colleen Jeffries says:

    The ferocious weather patterns we have seen this past year is indicative of a severe climate change. The earth is getting hotter because it is getting much closer to the sun. Not to mention how close we are to Christ Second Coming. We are going to see much hotter and colder weather in the next few years. Also we will see a massive increase in natural disasters. The birth pangs have just begun, folks. As the birth pangs intensify, so will our global troubles. We need to watch, pray, and love one another.

  5. rogerthesurf says:

    The point I was trying to make is that whenever we have a hot event such as in Russia it “proves” global warming, but when we have a cold event which in this case covered all of the northern hemisphere except parts of Canada, it is explained away as a local event and meaningless in terms of the overall climate.

    Personally I think such observations do not prove AGW either way, all they can possibly prove, if the data is accurate, is the the climate is changing. Invariably any reasonable evidence or lack of it, with regard to actual causation, is omitted or ignored or as I believe does not actually exist.



    • As has been explained within this thread, and no doubt to you countless other threads, it’s the frequency and intensity of events, not the temperature.
      I’ve provided links to the temp anomaly, and to a statement made by the Russian Meteorological centre. You’ve complained that the world is warming, but the link to the temp anomaly also provides a trend of the warming and I also linked to the AMSU, which shows the raw data from over a decade (the warmest decade on record) which also shows this year is the hottest year of the hottest decade – even with these snow events!!
      I don’t know how you can think that you news articles and economics journal articles holds up to blatantly obvious signs of change.
      If you don’t trust the temp data look at the following papers, which use biological and physical changes from a huge collection of data sets that shows multiple response that correlate with climate change.
      Rosenzweig et al. (2008) Attributing physical and biological impacts to anthropogenic climate change. Nature. 453(15):353-357. doi:10.1038/nature06937
      Thackeray et al. (2010) Trophic level asynchrony in rates of phonological change for marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02165.x
      Amano et al. (2010) A 250-year index of first flowering dates and its response to temperature change. Proc. R. Soc.B.doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.0291
      If you need evidence that the temp anomaly is due to the increase of trapping of long wave radiation in the bands absorb by greenhouse gases see the following papers;
      Harries et al. (2001). Increases in greenhouse forcing inferred from the outgoing longwave radiation spectra of the Earth in 1970 and 1997. Nature. 410: 355-357
      Griggs, J. A., and, Harries, J. E. (2007) Comparison of Spectrally Resolved Outgoing Longwave Radiation over the Tropical Pacific between 1970 and 2003 Using IRIS, IMG, and AIRS. Journal of Climate. 20: 3982-4001 doi: 10.1175/JCLI4204.1

    • Crispy says:

      Roger, we overlap on this much… individual hot events or cold events are meaningless in terms of proving climate change. Sure. But weather is the manifestation of climate, so the science predicts that events like the mess in Russia will become more common… and cold winters, less so. We have to watch the trend, not the weather report.

      Recently I have seen some bloggers comparing the frequency of record high temperatures in various parts of the world to the frequency of record low temperatures. Across the last three decades the trend is clear… new record highs are far outstripping new record lows. As predicted. (I’ll try to link to that discussion when I find it again.)

      You say evidence for causation does not exist. This sounds like stock-standard denial. The greenhouse effect is causation. The physics is well understood. The planet is warming. If it’s not CO2 doing it, you need to explain what mysterious mechanism is countering the greenhouse forcing, and also explain what mysterious mechanism is instead causing the warming. That’s a lot of explaining to do, and I’ve seen no coherent attempt at it from the Watts side of the fence.

  6. adelady says:

    Cold event? Lots of snow is an indicator of less cold I understand. (Being from the snow free city of Adelaide it’s not something I’m really familiar with.)

    And for the extraordinarily hot weather. The problem is that it, just like the higher precipitation during the North American winter, is exactly in line with predictions. And so is the simultaneous occurrence of high rainfall causing flooding and landslides in Pakistan and China. One hot summer or one flood or one landslide in one place means very little. Record breaking summers and floods in many places all at once should attract notice and concern.

  7. Lucy Jr. says:

    Good blog – thank you.
    “climate change” is tattooed on these disasters.
    Denialists – you have blood on your hands.

  8. Roger,
    “I don’t know what the truth is, all I know there are contradicting hypothesis but very little actual fact.”
    There’s not a great deal of “fact” in science, more certainty and most of the scientific papers leads to a great deal of certainty regarding anthropogenic climate change. There’s a wealth of papers out there and obsessing over merely paleo-climate studies denies all else. Paleo-climate is to climate studies as fossils are to evolution – not needed, but certainly adds to the work.
    If you choose to ignore all climate science except for this hockey stick stuff, you miss the point.
    “What he is saying that more heat = more water vapour = more clouds = more radiation reflected back into space.
    Seems consistant with cooling weather after volcanic eruptions as well.”
    Is that not an altered climate? All climate change is disruptive to many biological and physical activities which we, ourselves, are ultimately reliant upon.
    Again, it’s not cooling because we know the temperature anomaly is in the plus, not negative. We are witnessing a changing climate, due to an increase in trapped heat. We know this relates to wave lengths associated with CH4 and CO2 and we know we’ve been altering the levels of these two gases in the atmosphere.
    It’s selective to simply ignore the weight of evidence that suggests the story of ACC.
    we can only say as much in retrospect and at that point, it’ll be collectively everyone’s fault.

  9. Also we will see a massive increase in natural disasters.

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