All Voices photo of Domodedovo (Moscow) under ice yesterday
All Voices photo of Domodedovo (Moscow) under ice yesterday

By our Moscow correspondent

It’s one thing for airports to close because of really heavy snow (as in New York and nearby tonight), and one thing for airports to close in light snow because of greedy, foolish airport owners (as in the case of London Heathrow recently, to paraphrase the more forgiving accounts in the UK press) but for Moscow’s airports to be paralysed because it was too warm in winter IS something out of left field.

Moscow had a Christmas ‘heatwave’. It rained, rather than snowed, because it was 20C warmer than normal, in fact, temperatures went close to  zero degrees C, and as a valued Russian aviation associate recounts, this was very bad for air travelers in a country famous for coping with ultra cold (and thus ultra dry) winters without missing a beat.

A little ice on the car this morning (1.5cm thick!) – Moscow style!

Unusual WX in Moscow over the Christmas weekend; temp warmed up to just below 0°C; luxury, except that snow then turned into a few hours of rain, which then subsequently covered everything in thick ice (half inch or so!) when temp dropped to -10C again a few hours later.

Was almost impossible to walk on the streets as Moscow was turned into one giant skating rink (must have been a nightmare for Santa) – 4000km of traffic jams in Moscow (that’s further than from MOW to Novosibirsk). Spectacular fireworks show on the street as ice formed on the overhead wires of the trolley buses. The contact arm throwing huge sparks continuously as the bus inched forward under the intermittent power supply. Watched one trolley bus pass my apartment at a slow walking pace firing grouped air-busts of sparks 5 meters into the air.

At  Sheremetyevo (SVO) aircraft could not taxi under their own power as taxiways covered in ice and SVO ran out of de icing fluid. (DME closed for half of Saturday). Long delays as AC required to be towed to departure RWY and special engine warmers required to remove ice from turbine blades before start (but only 3 available). Takes a lot to stop Moscow airports in winter as the Russian carriers are very used to snow and cold wx ops, but these unusual condition came close.

This is his photo of  the ice on his car in Moscow this morning.


Our man in Moscow says the branches of the trees in a nearby park, that is, those that haven’t collapsed, “have been coated by so much ice their diameter is up to four times what they were when dry powder snow was sifting through, as in a ‘normal’ Moscow winter.”

He also says there is about 5 cms of clear hard ice all over the sidewalks, now bonded to them by temperatures that have already fallen below -10C and are probably headed to the -20C or -30C zones, as shown in more of his photos below.

photo 3

photo 6

Risking his fingers, he also took this photo of  ice being cleared off the parapets and cornices of a typical inner Moscow apartment building.

photo 7

“The sound of crowbars being used to break the sometimes deadly encrustrations of ice off buildings is often heard in Moscow winters,” he says. “There are fatalities every winter from stealth icicles metres long  slicing into people at street level, and some of the overhangs are said to have a mass of more than a tonne if they are allowed to grow undetected or unremoved”

There is also an account of the Moscow ice storm on the collaborative All Voices on line news site which is where the photo at the top of this page was posted by one of its volunteers.

While comparatively rare in Europe and Russia, ice storms are quoted as accounting for between 10-20% of damaging cold outbreaks in the US, and mainly close to the Atlantic shores where the ocean and low altitude combine to lift the punishing low temperatures of weather systems that come from the deep chill of the interior or the Canadian arctic.

This classic photo (below) of a North American ice storm was taken early last century, but Wikipedia Commons, where it was found, doesn’t provide a date or precise location.


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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey