Russian thermageddon: A historical perspective

Posted: November 28, 2010 by tallbloke in climate

Much muttering and cries of “unprecedeted” from the alarmists about Russia’s 2010 heatwave and the resulting forest fires.

Russian forest fire 2010

Russian forest fire 2010: Image courtesy of the BBC

From Guardian comment contributor Trofim:

1298: There was a wholesale death of animals. In the same year there was a drought, and the woods and peat bogs burnt.

1364: Halfway through summer there was a complete smoke haze, the heat was dreadful, the forests, bogs and earth were burning, rivers dried up. The same thing happened the following year . . .

1431: following a blotting out of the sky, and pillars of fire, there was a drought – “the earth and the bogs smouldered, there was no clear sky for 6 weeks, nobody saw the sun, fishes, animals and birds died of the smoke.

1735: Empress Anna wrote to General Ushakov: “Andrei Ivanovich, here in St Petersburg it is so smoky that one cannot open the windows, and all because, just like last year, the forests are burning. We are surprised that no-one has thought about how to stem the fires, which are burning for the second year in a row”.

1831: Summer was unbearably hot, and as a consequence of numerous fires in the forests, there was a constant haze of smoke in the air, through which the sun appeared a red hot ball; the smell of burning was so strong, that it was difficult to breathe.

The years of 1839-1841 were known as the “hungry years”. In the spring of 1840, the spring sowings of corn disappeared in many places. From midway through April until the end of August not a drop of rain fell. From the beginning of summer the fields were covered with a dirty grey film of dust. All the plants wilted, dying from the heat and lack of water. It was extraordinarily hot and close, even though the sun, being covered in haze, shone very weakly through the haze of smoke. Here and there in various regions of Russia the forests and peat bogs were burning (the firest had begun already in 1839). there was a reddish haze, partially covering the sun, and there were dark, menacing clouds on the horizon. There was a choking stench of smoke which penetrated everywhere, even into houses where the windows remained closed.

1868: the weather was murderous. It rained once during the summer. There was a drought. The sun, like a red hot cinder, glowed through the clouds of smoke from the peat bogs. Near Peterhoff the forests and peat workings burnt, and troops dug trenches and flooded the subterranean fire. It was 40 centigrade in the open, and 28 in the shade.

1868: a prolonged drought in the northern regions was accompanied by devastating fires in various regions. Apart from the cities and villages affected by this catastrophe, the forests, peat workings and dried-up marshes were burning. In St Petersburg region smoke filled the city and its outlying districts for several weeks.

1875: While in western europe there is continual rain and they complain about the cold summer, here in Russia there is a terrible drought. In southern Russia all the cereal and fruit crops have died, and around St Petersburg the forest fires are such that in the city itself, especially in the evening, there is a thick haze of smoke and a smell of burning. Yesterday, the burning woods and peat bogs threatened the ammunitiion stores of the artillery range and even Okhtensk gunpowder factory.

1885: (in a letter from Peter Tchaikovsky, composer): I’m writing to you at three oclock in the afternoon in such darkness, you would think it was nine oclock at night. For several days, the horizon has been enveloped in a smoke haze, arising, they say, from fires in the forest and peat bogs. Visibility is diminishing by the day, and I’m starting to fear that we might even die of suffocation.

1917 (diary of Aleksandr Blok, poet): There is a smell of burning, as it seems, all around the city peat bogs, undergrowth and trees are burning. And no-one can extinguish it. That will be done only by rain and the winter. Yellowish-brown clouds of smoke envelope the villages, wide swaithes of undergrowth are burning, and God sends no rain, and what wheat there is in the fields is burning.

Other chronicles I’ve found in the past (and lost the links) catalogue deep cold events in various parts of continental Europe. Do readers have any more?

  1. Does this have any relation with M.Vukcevick “Y “north magnetic dipole(*)?

    Where the NMP has divided in two, one over Russia. His LOD/GMF relation also would indicate a relation to gravity (as LOD relates to it).
    (* he has removed from his webpage the “NMP-Ydipole”)

  2. Tim Channon says:

    TB: yes there is a great deal in the human record, if as you realise some caution is needed.

    Seems to me that continental climate has extremes which is of course exactly what is seen, maritime it isn’t.

    A question is perhaps: and what do the infamous trees say about this, the dendro brigade? Fire damage ought to be easy to find but heat/water perhaps a wee bit more difficult.

  3. tallbloke says:

    Tim, yes, big continental masses build big stable weather patterns which persist for weeks or even months. One of the reasons weather is such a popular topic in Britain is because o-one knows what will happen tomorrow.

    I would think surviving trees in burnt ares will have growth spurts due to the nutrition of the soil and increased light availability. Higher local temperature from absorption by darker soil too.

    I’m not well versed in dendro literature so I can’t help with what they have to say.

  4. Roy Martin says:

    Meanwhile, welcome to your own second Little Ice Age.

    In the South Eastern corner of Australia we are quite used to forest fires occurring every few years. These were a feature of natural variability for many thousands of years before European settlement of the continent. In our case they are usually linked to hot and dry seasons, mainly influenced by strong El Nino patterns. At the moment we are having the opposite, our wettest and coolest spring for many years across the whole of eastern Australia, mostly caused by a strong La Nina. There should be no surprise that hot and dry periods can occur in Russia, and no reason to blame them on AGW.

    In ‘Ice Age Terminations’ by Cheng et. al. (Science Vol 326, 9Oct. 2009), the authors established a very convincing correspondence between a weak Monsoon (WM) in SE Asia and the retreat of the NH ice sheets. The connection between El Nino/La Nina and the SE Monsoon was established many decades ago, and one wonders if there could be a long chain of teleconnections linking the La Nina through the SE Asian Monsoon (which devastated Indian sub-continent earlier in the year), to drying weather patterns over central and eastern Russia and cooler weather over the East Atlantic.

  5. tallbloke says:

    Hi Roy,
    yes, the more responsible among the warmista recognized that this is weather not climate. Didn’t stop the alarmists from singing the usual dirge and lament though.

    When will they learn?

  6. Roy Martin says:
    November 30, 2010 at 8:57 am
    Now you need to find “La Niña”´s father. Just in name of Mayeutics…..

  7. Wrong expression, I meant: “just for the sake of mayeutics”(Socrates´way of asking for the causes of phenomena)

  8. E O'Connor says:

    From the Novgorod Chronicles, 1016-1471

    A.D. 1145. A.M. 6653. There were two whole weeks of great heat, like burning snarks, before harvest; then came rain, so that we saw not a clear; day-till winter

    A.D. 1161. A.M. 6669. The same year the sky stood clear all summer and all the corn was scorched, and in the autumn frost killed all the spring corn. But furthermore for our sins the evil did not stop there, but again in the winter the whole winter stood with heat and rain, and there was thunder;

    A.D. 1194. A.M. 6702. The same year Ladoga took fire before Novgorod, and then, too, Russa took fire; and in the Lyudin end ten courts took fire; and thus wonders continued from All Saints up to Our Lady’s Day. And then came the rest of the living from the Yugra country.

    AD. 1201. A.M. 6709. On April 15 of the same year the church of St. Nikola in the Gorodishche’ was burnt down by thunder; and the whole summer stood with rain.

    A.D. 1303. A.M. 6811. The winter of the same year was a warm winter; there was no snow all through the winter. The people could not get corn, and prices were very high, great hardship

    A.D. 1335. A.M. 6843. The same year, for our sins, there were great fires in Russia; Moscow. Vologda, Vitebsk were burnt, and Yurev [Reval/Tallinn] of the Nemtsy [Germans] was entirely burnt down.
    .. autumn ice and snow drifted into the Volkhov, carrying away fifteen stays of the great bridge;

    A.D. 1337. A.M. 6845. The same year the whole of Moscow was burnt down; and then there came heavy rain and flooded everything; both in the cellars and in the squares wherever anything had been carried out. The same year Toropets was burnt down and flooded.

    I’m currently doing a cut and paste exercise of all weather/solar/lunar event comments in this Chronicle. There are frequent comments about what appear to be eclipse events but here are some intriguing comments about other observed sky events –

    A.D. 1028. A.M. 6536.There appeared a sign in the sky like a serpent.

    A.D. 1065. A.M. 6573. and in the west there appeared a great star.

    A.D. 1141. A.M. 6649. On April 1 there was a very marvellous sign in the sky; six circles, three close about the sun, and three other large ones outside the sun, and stood nearly all day.


  9. Here you can find those Chronicles:

  10. E O'Connor says:

    Thank you Adolfo

    I began to read the Novgorod Chronicle only for mention of unusual climate events following Tallbloke’s post above.

    It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that in the Novgorod Chronicle, which makes frequent mention of the activities of the tribes of Chud, in particular from the west of Lake Chudskoe (Peipsi), that I am reading about my genetic ancestors!

  11. Ulric Lyons says:

    I would expect 1831 to be similar to 2010.

  12. P.G. Sharrow says:

    E O’Connor says:
    November 30, 2010 at 11:52 pm
    “A.D. 1028. A.M. 6536.There appeared a sign in the sky like a serpent.”

    I saw one of those back in the 1970s, a fire breathing dragon, nearly 100 miles long.
    A bolide, in the early afternoon, flying from north to south along the crest of the Serria Nevada Mountians. Very impressive. Looked just like a Chinese street parade dragon. pg

  13. E O'Connor says:

    Oh lucky PG

    Some more details if I may ask, –

    your condition (it was the 70’s, -:)
    time of day and
    any reports or write-ups.

    Such an interesting word is bolide.

    Here are two eyewitness statements of the Tunguska bolide:

    “A flying star with a fiery tail; its tail disappeared into the air.”

    “….saw to the north west, rather high above the horizon, some strangely bright (impossible to look at) bluish-white heavenly body, which for 10 minutes moved downwards. The body appeared as a “pipe”, i.e. a cylinder.”

  14. tallbloke says:

    I seem to remember that although a lot of trees got knocked down at Tunguska, no-one found a crater. Was that because it was swampy ground? Someone here (Ulric?) suggested it might have been an electrical event rather than gravitational.

  15. E O'Connor says:

    The felled tree images are famous and show something very strange happened.

    To date neither fragments of the bolide, nor impact craters have ever been identified in the Tunguska area. One small bog was eventually drained and yielded only a tree stump.

    The Electric Universe people in 2006 discussed whether it could have been electric discharge.

    It is well worth the read for other strange anomalies prior to the event eg, strange weather, sounds, glowing skies, seismic activity and geomagnetic effects as well as a global atmospheric pressure pulse which seem to suggest electric force being involved.

    The Italian Tunguska research team from the University of Bologna, who after several expeditions, are hopeful of finding evidence at the bottom of the 164 deep Lake Cheko about 8 km NW of the explosion epicentre. They claim there is some evidence that the lake formed only in 1908. The lake has an unusual funnel shape.

    They may be presenting research results at an International Conference on Tunguska and Asteroid/Comet Impacts in Bucharest in May 2011.

    There is news from NASA of the first ever tracked during entry, asteroid that in October 2008, crashed into the Nubian Desert in Sudan.

    “During four expeditions, approximately 150 students recovered nearly 600 meteorite fragments weighing a total of more than 23 pounds.”

    “We estimate the asteroid initially weighed about 59 tons, of which about 86 pounds survived the explosion high in the atmosphere.”

    ‘it contained at least 10 different types of meteorites.”

    “……… scientists determined most of the fragments are a rare type of meteorite called ureilites. Less than 10 of the nearly 1,000 known meteorites are ureilites.”

    “The research is featured in 20 papers published this week in an issue of the Meteoritical Society’s journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science. “

  16. tallbloke says:

    And then there’s the guy in Ukraine? who sold bits of meteorite which he claims fell on his house on several different occasions!

    I’ll read the EU piece with my best sceptical glasses on.

  17. E O'Connor says:

    While you have those glass on –

    A French satellite observed a dramatic increase in ultra low frequency radio waves over Haiti in the month before the M7.0 earthquake earlier this year.

  18. Tim Channon says:

    Blimey, that is an amazing result.

  19. tallbloke says:

    Very interesting. I’ll post that in a day or so as a new thread. Thanks for the headsup.

  20. E O'Connor says:

    Just passing on what I followed through from a comment on Erik Klemetti’s ‘About Eruptions’ blog.

  21. ldlas says:

    you must translate this from russian to english (have fun)

  22. E O'Connor says:


    This is great! Long history and short memories!

    Here in Australia the various state governments have been leasing Russian firefighting helicopters for quite a few years. Now I wonder why the Russians designed specific helicopters and planes for water bombing? -:)


  23. E O'Connor says:

    I like this descrition of the Tunguska bolide in the Russian paper:

    “As a result of the visit of a guest space in the middle of the green coat “taiga formed charred a hole diameter of nearly one hundred kilometers.”

    Reminds me of the expression commonly used in Russian Annuls and Chronicles of people going and returning ‘with love’.