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Climate of Russia

A multitude of fundamental elements contribute to the diverse climatic conditions across Russia. The nation’s considerable expanse and its relatively unextended shape—most of its territory lies in excess of 400 kilometers from the ocean, with some regions situated up to 2,400 kilometers away—result in a predominance of continental climate patterns. Russia’s position at higher latitudes means that these climate patterns are predominantly of a cold continental nature. Only the southwestern part of Russia, which includes the North Caucasus area and the lower basins of the Don and Volga rivers, along with select areas of southern Siberia and the maritime region of southeastern Siberia, fall below the 50° N latitude. Moreover, over half of the Russian Federation is situated north of the 60° N latitude. The formidable mountain ranges to the south and east act as barriers, obstructing milder climatic influences from the Indian and Pacific oceans. Conversely, the lack of significant topographical barriers to the west and north renders the country susceptible to climatic influences from the Atlantic and Arctic regions. Consequently, the transitional seasons of spring and autumn are markedly abbreviated, giving way to a climate characterized predominantly by lengthy winters and brief summers, with swift transitions between these extreme conditions.

Atmospheric pressure and winds

The winter season induces a significant cooling effect across the Eurasian continent, resulting in the formation of a pronounced high-pressure system over the interior regions of the country. During the month of January, average atmospheric pressures exceed 1,040 millibars near the southern periphery of Siberia. From this point, a high-pressure ridge extends westward, tracing the borders of Russia with Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The outward flow of air from these high-pressure areas dictates prevailing wind patterns, which are predominantly from the southwest in the European part of Russia, from the south across a large expanse of Siberia, and from the northwest along the Pacific coastline.

In contrast, the summer months bring about a substantial warming of the landmass, leading to the establishment of a low-pressure system over the Asian interior. Consequently, air currents are drawn inward, with winds originating from the northwest in the European region, from the north across Siberia, and from the southeast along the Pacific seaboard.

Temperature

Atmospheric circulation moderates the potential temperature disparities between northern and southern regions during winter, which one might anticipate due to differences in latitude. Consequently, on the Russian Plain, temperature gradients align predominantly in a north-south direction, with readings at each latitude decreasing from west to east, culminating in a frigid epicenter in northeastern Siberia. Within a confined latitudinal band, the average temperature for January is 18 °F (−8 °C) in St. Petersburg, −17 °F (−27 °C) in Turukhansk on the West Siberian Plain, −46 °F (−43 °C) in Yakutsk, and −58 °F (−50 °C) in Verkhoyansk. Near the Mongolian frontier, the mean temperature is marginally higher than that along the Arctic coast, which is situated 1,500 miles (2,400 km) to the north. Coastal temperatures along the Pacific are further reduced by offshore winds; for instance, Vladivostok, situated at a latitude comparable to the French Riviera, experiences an average January temperature of 7 °F (−14 °C). In contrast, during summer, temperature patterns are more closely correlated with latitude, with July averages spanning from 39 °F (4 °C) in the Arctic islands to 68 °F (20 °C) near the southern boundary of the country. However, actual temperatures can deviate significantly from these averages. The lowest recorded January temperature outside of Antarctica was −96 °F (−71 °C) in Oymyakon, southeast of Verkhoyansk, while some locations have reported July highs exceeding 100 °F (38 °C). This leads to a substantial seasonal temperature range that intensifies inland; for instance, the difference between January and July averages is 52 °F (29 °C) in Moscow, 76 °F (42 °C) in Turukhansk, and 115 °F (64 °C) in Yakutsk. Pervasive extreme winter cold defines much of Russia’s climate, with the frost-free period lasting over six months solely in the North Caucasus and ranging from five to three months in the European part of Russia to three months or fewer in Siberia, depending on latitude.

Precipitation

Precipitation patterns across Russia are characterized by relatively modest to low aggregate volumes with a distinct peak during the summer months. In the European plains and the western regions of Siberia, there is a noticeable gradient in precipitation levels, decreasing from the northwest towards the southeast. Typically, these areas receive less than 600 millimeters (24 inches) of rainfall annually, with figures diminishing from approximately 533 millimeters (21 inches) in Moscow to around 203 millimeters (8 inches) near the Kazakhstan border. Eastern Siberia experiences even lower annual totals, often below 406 millimeters (16 inches), and can be as sparse as 127 millimeters (5 inches) along the Arctic coastline.

Conversely, precipitation levels rise in proximity to the Pacific coast, exemplified by Vladivostok, which receives around 600 millimeters (24 inches) annually, largely due to the moisture-rich summer monsoon winds that blow onshore. The amount of precipitation also varies with altitude; the elevated regions of the Urals typically see in excess of 711 millimeters (28 inches), while the mountainous areas of Kamchatka province and the Sikhote-Alin range often exceed 1,015 millimeters (40 inches) per year.

Snowfall is a significant climatic element throughout Russia, with its depth and the duration of snow cover exerting a considerable influence on agricultural practices. The snow cover period varies significantly, depending on latitude and altitude, extending from 40 to 200 days across the Russian Plain and from 120 to 250 days within Siberian territories.

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