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12 Jan, 2014 04:37

Weather swap: Is America’s ‘polar vortex’ linked to record warm winter in Russia?

Weather swap: Is America’s ‘polar vortex’ linked to record warm winter in Russia?

As Americans kept struggling with extreme cold and snow brought on by a ‘polar vortex,’ people in central Russia were puzzled by warm rainy weather that swept all the snow away. Now weather experts say the two anomalies are in fact connected.

As residents of the US and Canada were surprised by the frigid cold dipping below minus 30 degrees Celsius, Russians were also surprised by the January weather, with temperatures in Moscow rising some 11 degrees above average and melting the snowy “New Year’s spirit” away.

Central Europe also experienced sudden warm-up, and trees in Moldovan capital Chisinau got confused to the point their buds started swelling, apparently in anticipation of the blooming season.

Commuters make a sub-zero trek to offices in the Loop on January 6, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / Scott Olson)

One of the reasons for the snowless January in Russia and the coldest winter in the last 17 years for the US is in fact the shifting of the Arctic Cyclone towards North America, Greg Carbin, warning meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Itar-Tass news agency.

The cyclone may come to Russia in a week or two, Carbin said, predicting that the temperatures in the country could soon leap back to below zero and even below average.

Swollen buds on trees in Alexander Garden. Moscow faces abnormally warm weather on January 10, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Evgeny Biyatov)

Russian meteorologists have said that the gradual return of winter is to be expected even sooner. According to the Hydrometeorological Centre of Russia, frost and snow is coming back, starting from this weekend and reaching minus 17 degrees Celsius on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, people in practically every US state (except Alaska and Hawaii) have been suffering the fate of the US East Coast and Midwest, which were hit by heavy storms ahead of Thanksgiving, and then have suffered Winter Storm Hercules, with its severe snowfall and chilling wind, just after New Year’s.

The U.S. side of the Niagara Falls is pictured in Ontario, January 8, 2014. (Reuters / Aaron Harris)

The natural disaster has since grounded thousands of flights, halted some trains and traffic midway, cut power lines, leaving whole parts of cities in the dark, and was responsible for countless road accidents, some of them fatal. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday even declared a state of emergency due to a “polar vortex” raging in the state, describing the weather conditions as “life threatening.”

Weather experts, however, have stopped short of saying the anomalies are direct signs of global warming.

Children playing in a puddle in a courtyard on January 10, 2014. Abnormally warm weather has settled in Moscow. (RIA Novosti / Iliya Pitalev)

What is happening now in the US and Russia is due to “natural climactic variations,” said Claire Nullis, spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The so-called Rossby planetary waves, which, among other factors, are responsible for the emergence of jet streams – the strong high-altitude winds blowing from west to east – are behind with the extreme weather fluctuations, Nullis said in Geneva on Friday.

A young girl sleds down a hill in Central Park after a winter storm on January 3, 2014 in New York, United States. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / John Moore)

Passengers heading into downtown wait on an "L" platform for the train to arrive in below zero temperatures on January 7, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / Scott Olson)

New Year fir tree on Zubovsky Boulevard just behind a green lawn where the snow melted due to the temperature of plus 8 degrees C on January 10, 2014 (RIA Novosti / Valeriy Melnikov)