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10 Dec, 2008 21:17

Muscovites dreaming of a white Christmas

Winter is coming late in many parts of Russia and Eastern Europe – it’s already a more than a month overdue in Moscow – but ecologists fear the eventual arrival of the cold weather might make things worse.

Buds are swelling and roses are blooming in Moscow. The environmentalists say it's the result of the abnormally mild weather that's been cocooning the Russian capital for the last two months.

However, if the cold weather does arrive, the prospects are not good for everyone.

“There will be tough times for some plants. Their buds will freeze and won't bloom in the future. But in general, the coming winter won't be so hard for most of them,” said ecologist Svetlana Senegayeva.

Evergreens and local plants that are used to the Russian cold are most likely to survive, but imported varieties will suffer. Not only plants, but animals as well are being endangered by the unseasonally warm weather.

Animals in the wild have been preparing for winter. As they usually do at this time of year, hares' fur has changed to white, but with the lack of snow, this leaves them hopelessly exposed in the wild. They could fall easy prey to predators.

“It can be seen in the forest even at a great distance, and it's very simple for a predator to spot the hare and get it,” said Igor Medvedev, a forest reserve employee.
The experts say that if the snow doesn't fall soon, the whole population will be under threat.

However, this is not the worst outcome, as the experience of previous years shows. The impact of climate change on humans may be more disastrous than on animals.

Two years ago in Moscow, amid similar weather conditions, it’s said that the number of suicides doubled because the weather was so depressing.

In the meantime, Russian weather forecasters are promising snow and frost by the New Year.