Friday, July 16, 2010

The Heat Is On

40 C degree weather (104 F). No rain. Humidity. No wind. A hazy, burning sun. Hot concrete. Millions of cars. No air conditioners. No relief.

Although last summer I was whining about the 30 C weather in Ottawa, this year has to be one of the hottest summers I've ever endured. At least in Ottawa everyone has air conditioners. For relief from the heat one can simply go to the nearest 7-11 and "browse" for fifteen minutes; not so in Moscow.

Strangely enough it was with a sense of relief that I read about the abnormal heatwave and drought that is scorching Europe into dust. I wasn't relieved because Europe is being baked like clay in an oven, instead, I was relieved to read that I'm not the only one suffering. Russians have a tendency to silently bear their suffering without complaint (possibly a cultural trait steeped in their grim history) whereas myself and my American and west-European colleagues can do nothing but bitch.

As I understand it, there is normally a ridge of high pressure over the arctic and low pressure over Europe, causing cool air to blow down and although it can still get hot, it brings rain and wind. This year, however, there is low pressure over the entire European continent, from England in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east, and high pressure over the African continent, causing scorching heat to sweep over Europe and thus we have a weather crisis on our hands.

Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Austria and Germany are suffering the brunt of it. It has only rained 35 mm since early April and the worst drought in 130 years is setting in. In Russia a state of emergency has been declared as farms are drying up and grain stocks are dwindling. The Ukraine, traditionally the breadbasket of Europe, is nearly plum out of grain and is relying on imports from less-affected areas. In the past 3 weeks no less than 2300 forest fires have been reported across the continent, and infrastructure is starting to break down under the strain of tens of millions of people sweltering, quite literally in some cases, to death.

I read in the news that air conditioners and fans are sold-out in Moscow (thankfully I bought a fan back in June), although I have yet to see one of these so-called air conditioners. The odd restaurant or cafe is equipped but most places are just baking ovens.

The Moscow commuter train system, the elektrishka, is being overwhelmed by overheated people climbing onto the roofs of the trains (and falling off), passing out from the heat or, in nearly 40 cases in 3 weeks, dying from heat stroke while riding to and from work. 5 years ago the Moscow Oblast government gave $5 million US to the train system to install air conditioners and better ventilation in the cars, but immediately upon receiving the payment 3 members of the commission disappeared with all $5 million to another country and the government has been wary of handing down any more money. After this year they will have to do something about it.

I can complain and whine all I want about the stinking heat in Moscow but there is nothing I can do about it. There is nowhere to get relief, and from here to Brussels everyone is suffering (although in Brussels they can browse their local convenience store in air conditioned comfort), so all I can do is take a cue from the Russians and bear it. After all, it can't last forever, can it?

No comments:

Post a Comment