I Survived Moscow's Summer of 2010 (but didn't get the t-shirt)

When I returned to Moscow from the slight chill of wintery South Africa, the city was at the start of what would be a six week heat wave of epic proportions. From late June until early August, not a day went by when temperatures didn't reach 30 degrees C (86 F) in the city. Some days, it got up to the 35-40 C (95-104 F) range.

I remember one day checking to see the temperatures in other major cities in what are usually warmer climates to see if their weather was hotter. Los Angeles? No. Miami? No. Cairo, Mumbai, my beloved Ibiza. Nope. Every one of them cooler than Moscow. To put it in perspective, Moscow is at about the same northern latitude as Glasgow, Scotland or Edmonton, Canada.

The hotter days, up around 40 C, set all-time temperature records — not just for those particular days, but for any day since they started keeping records! One top meteorologist hypothesized that, since there were no written accounts of such serious heatwaves in the pre-weather record era, it was probably hotter than it had been here in 1000 years.

With the heat came wildfires — literally hundreds of them throughout the European part of Russia. Forest fires burned whole villages in some parts of the country. In the Moscow region, peat bogs were ablaze, covering the City of Moscow in a blanket of acrid smog whenever the wind blew in the wrong direction. Health officials likened being outside for an hour to smoking two packs of cigarettes, and visibility was measured in the tens of meters at times. Airports even diverted flights.

Bolshoi Moskvoretsky bridge. Usually, St Basil's Cathedral and the Kremilin's towers are visible on the other side.

Bolshoi Moskvoretsky bridge. Usually, St Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin's towers are visible on the other side.

In mid-August, the heatwave ended almost as quickly as it began, and the rains finally came. It was too late to save the crops in some parts of the country, resulting in a ban on wheat exports as the government tried to keep domestic prices from skyrocketing.

I've never been one to fret much about global warming, but I suppose this phenomenon was good evidence for those who advocate a stronger position on the matter. Even Russian President Dmitry Medvedev softened his stance on the issue, admitting for the first time that it's something to worry about! Interesting for the head of a country that, in the coldest parts of Siberia, wouldn't mind if things got a little warmer.

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