Siberia in Double Trouble: Heat Wave plus Quarantine

Record breaking heat wave in Siberia amidst of COViD-19 pandemia may seriously exacerbate the death toll.

Figure 1:: Illustration of the excess deaths toll based on the figures from Financial Times recalculated per one million of people. Background photo: Omsk, May, 25, 2020.Figure 1:: Illustration of the excess deaths toll based on the figures from Financial Times recalculated per one million of people. Background photo: Omsk, May, 25, 2020.

High air temperature during summer heat waves considerably increases number of deaths. City dwellers are particularly vulnerable as buildings and street canyons trap and exacerbate the heat extremes. As a distinct signature of contemporary global warming, the heat waves become stronger and more frequent in the recent years. The Moscow heat wave in 2010 almost doubled the mortality rate in the Russian capital against its average level. Large number of excessive deaths was reported for the European heat waves in 2003, 2018, 2019. Summer 2020 arrives with unprecedented new temperature records.  

This week, Siberia is an arena of record-breaking temperatures. Even north of the polar circle, temperatures are souring to +25oC over snow-covered tundra – the whole 12oC higher than the previous record for May in Norilsk and Igarka. Unseasonably early fires are observed. At the same time, Southern Siberian regions see the temperatures above +35oC. This heat wave continues the warm temperature anomaly that is established in the area since January 2020.

Figure 2: Observed weather in the southern and northern parts of Siberia and the map of the current temperature anomaly. Graphics from climate reanalyzer and https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/russia/igarka/historic.Figure 2: Observed weather in the southern and northern parts of Siberia and the map of the current temperature anomaly. Graphics from climate reanalyzer and https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/russia/igarka/historic.

This unprecedented early heat wave hits several large cities where population is locked down by strong Russian quarantine measures. It is difficult to sit in isolation in small overheated apartments even without any movement restrictions. If fires become massive as in 2019, choking smoke will add to the health risks. In the current situation, such a drastic deterioration of living conditions may seriously exacerbate the death toll in the area.

 

Related news story in NRK: Fryktar fleire korona-døde etter hetebølgje i Sibir.