June 16, 2024

Balmy December Leads Moscow to Import Fake Snow for Winter Sports

Author: Jonny Lupsha, News Writer
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By Jonny Lupsha, News Writer

Trucks carrying artificial snow arrived in Moscow last week for city use, according to The Guardian. Other signs of warm weather included early flower blooming and interrupted hibernation at the local zoo. Ecological changes often bring surprising sights.

View of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior through the flowerbeds, Moscow Russia
Global climate change is affecting the December 2019 temperatures in Russia, leading to early flower blooming and the trucking in of snow for snowboarding. Photo by Julia Shepeleva / Shutterstock

The Guardian article said that the artificial snow was brought in for a snowboarding demonstration that begins on New Year’s Day, and was produced by shaving ice from a skating rink nearby. Russian President Vladimir Putin has voiced his concerns over climate change. “The country was warming 2.5 times faster than the average for the planet,” the article said, though Russia has failed to set restrictions or even targets on greenhouse gas emissions for private companies. What other impacts can global climate change have on animals, plants, and natural habitats?

Phenology in an Eggshell

“One of the most vexing aspects of climate change is the way in which the timing of natural events changes as the biosphere heats up,” said Dr. Eric G. Strauss, Presidential Professor in Ecology at Loyola Marymount University. “This research is called ‘phenology’ and is focused on the annual timing of natural events. Animal migrations are often timed to coincide with food availability along the way.”

For example, Dr. Strauss said, a million shore birds of the Calidris canutus species—commonly known as red knots—visit the Delaware Bay every year to feed on the eggs of horseshoe crabs. However, since people have increased their harvesting of the horseshoe crab for the conch and biotech industries, fewer eggs appear on the beach for red knots to eat.

“In fact, beginning in the 1990s and going through to the present, they have been doing mark recapture studies of the red knots, and the proportion of those red knots that fall into the 180-gram body capacity has been reduced dramatically, which means that the birds are not able to put on the weight that they need to finish their migratory trek,” Dr. Strauss said.

Birds lose half their body weight during migration, which they replenish with food like horseshoe crab eggs. Like fuel for your car on a long road trip, if no gas stations appear, you don’t get from point A to point B.

Global Desertification

Climate change affects the habitats of virtually all plant and animal life on Earth. Whether natural or man-made, the long-term changes to our environment are clear as day—and ominous to boot.

“Another factor that relates to this climate change issue is the amount of water that we have stored in reservoirs,” Dr. Strauss said. “We’re actually seeing the total reservoir level drop. For instance, the water in Lake Mead, the reservoir above the Hoover Dam, has experienced severe droughts between 2000 and 2003, and the water levels have receded almost 60 feet. This loss of stored water is affecting homes in the western United States as threats of water shortage loom.”

Dr. Strauss also pointed to India, which has suffered serious desertification in the last 50 to 60 years. “Desertification is where drought and poor land practices result in the loss of soils, which results in the loss of vegetation, and vegetation helped to retain moisture, and so the systems become deserts,” he said. “The Sahel of the 1960s into early 1980s ended up killing almost a million people and affecting more than 50 million as great regions turned into deserts.”

Russian winters have been famously harsh, stopping the armies of both Napoleon and Hitler in their tracks. Now, with The Guardian reporting that artificial snow is being trucked into Moscow, Russia may be as stark a reminder of climate change as Lake Mead and the Sahel.

Dr. Eric G. Strauss contributed to this article. Dr. Strauss is Presidential Professor in Ecology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He received his undergraduate education at Emerson College and earned his Ph.D. from Tufts University.

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