The ice age did not end: Volgograd researchers on weather ups and downs

Anatoly Sudakov spoke about the climate of Volgograd in the past, present and future.


Photo: Dmitry Rogulin / City News

May 15 is International Climate Day. The purpose of this environmental date is to draw the attention of national governments and international organizations to one of the most important problems of our time – the global change in the weather pattern on earth. Scenarios of the climate apocalypse have been repeatedly predicted by scientists and shown in science fiction, documentaries and feature films. But humanity still hopes that the situation can be at least partially kept under control. Climatologist Anatoly Sudakov knows better than anyone else how global warming has affected the climate of the Volgograd region and what awaits the inhabitants of the region in the event of the implementation of certain scenarios for a climate catastrophe. “City News” turned to him with his questions.


Photo: Anatoly Sudakov’s archive

Kos share in the apocalypse

– Anatoly Viktorovich, what kind of climate change is really meant when people talk about an impending climate catastrophe?

– We are talking about global warming, the only reason for this is human economic activity. And it is characterized by a steady increase in energy production exponentially. If in 1820 it was 20 exajoules per year, then by 2020 it will be 750 EJ, ​​and by 2060 it will reach 1600 EJ. Exajoule is 10eighteen J. A joule is the amount of energy required to, for example, lift a small apple one meter up. An exajoule can lift a quintile of apples a meter. Such a scale of numbers is not easy to imagine. But they are such that the earth’s climate machine has stalled. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that during the production process, greenhouse gases are released that prevent heat radiation from the earth to outer space and lead to overheating of the earth’s surface and atmosphere.

– But now it is practice to distribute quotas for emissions of such gases between states. Does this not solve the problem?

– It does not solve it completely, because in addition to industrial production, whose energy intensity is constantly decreasing with the development of new technology, energy is produced for the needs of the public. And the world’s population continues to grow. And his needs are growing, too. The number of vehicles is increasing. When fuel is burned in their engines, nitrous oxide is formed.

Feeding a growing population requires an increase in the number of livestock and poultry, which is a source of methane, another greenhouse gas. At least a quarter of all methane enters the atmosphere with the intestinal gases from livestock, of which there are from 1.3 to 1.5 billion heads in the world. Ten percent of these gases are supplied by small cattle – sheep and goats, which were bred with 1.8 billion. But there are still 170 million
buffaloes, 65 million horses, 60 million donkeys and mules, 20 million camels, 950 million pigs and about 15 billion beaks of various poultry.

Methane and gaseous nitrogen compounds are also released during the decay of swamp biomass in areas with permafrost degradation, in swamps and overheated reservoirs. This also applies to the Volgograd and Tsimlyansk reservoirs. So we will not be saved by quotas.


Photo: Dmitry Rogulin / City News

cold count

– Some scientists deny the fact of global warming, and say that the earth, on the contrary, enters the next phase of the ice age. Could it be that global warming is a myth created to entertain the public and use the funds allocated to combat a fictitious threat?

– The ice age has not yet ended since the global interglacial period ended 65 million years ago, and Greenland and Antarctica began to be covered by ice sheets. The entire geological history of the Cenozoic era is the history of the Earth’s next ice age. In total, there were four glacial epochs in the history of our planet: 2.5-2.2 million years ago, 900-550 million years ago, 380-240 million years ago and the present. The last interglacial of the current ice age began in Europe about 12,000 years ago. And before that time, for 30 million years in Europe, there were four glacial epochs: Oka, Dnieper, Moscow and Valdai, separated by interglacials. During the Don Glacier, the glacier covered the territory of the Volgograd region up to Serafimovich. In the valleys of the rivers Khopra and Medveditsa there are large boulders of gray granite in large numbers, brought to our region two thousand kilometers away from Scandinavia by a glacier that descends from high latitudes. The largest of them, the Slashchevsky Bloc in the Kumylzhensky district, is known throughout Russia as a unique geological object.

How fast is the climate in our area changing?

– The climate is constantly changing. But in its natural changes, quasi-periodicity is observed. This means that over time the climate parameters return to approximately the previous indicators, but that they are not completely repeated. And these changes take place over a long historical period, measured in centuries. Science knows what the climate was like in our area 300, 500, 1000 years ago and even earlier. For its reconstruction, chronicles are used that mention various weather phenomena, descriptions of landscapes made by travelers. Dendrochronological methods help, that is, the analysis of a section of ancient trunks, including dead ones that have undergone mineralization, tree trunks, the study of geological sections of sedimentary rocks that have accumulated over the last thousand years. Relic landscapes are an important proof of the climate of previous centuries. In the Kalachevsky district, the southernmost Shakinskaya oak forest in the Volgograd region is still preserved, where Grigory Melekhov, the hero of Mikhail Sholokhov’s novel The Quiet Flows the Don, said goodbye to the dying Aksinya. Relics are found in many parts of our region as proof of a different climate situation. And in the modern climate, they do not grow in our area.

– Was it cooler in the past in the territory of the modern Volgograd region? About three centuries ago?

– 300 years ago it was cooler and wetter. The forest zone ended much further south than now. In the southern part of our region there was a forest steppe. At the beginning of our era, the climate in the Lower Volga region was colder and drier than now. The territory was unattractive to economic development. After the great drought II-III centuries. in the VI century. the peak of cooling has come with 2-3 ° C, compared with the turn of the century 1800-1900, whose climate we take as the norm. This is a very significant value at which landscapes change significantly. But during the IX-XIII centuries. the climate was similar to the present.

During the first third of the XIII century. there were long severe droughts in our area. The steppe dried up and could no longer feed the herds of nomadic Mongols. Therefore, they moved to Kievan Rus. But later, in the 40s of XIII century. in the steppe zone of Eurasia for many decades, weather conditions were established that nomads could only dream of. The steppe received regular rain and fed herds of animals well. For this reason, the Mongols did not conquer Europe. They retreated to the southeast, and the Russian people began to form in the Oka Basin. The climatic factor has significantly affected our country’s history. If the warm period had lasted longer, the Mongols would have stayed in the midfield, and the Russian people might not have arisen.

But during the XIV-XIX centuries. the temperature background in the region returned to the values ​​from the turn of our time. However, cooling was observed at a high precipitation rate. During these centuries, oak forests and deciduous forests of poplar, ash trees and maples appeared on the territory of the Volgograd region. This was the so-called little ice age. In the early XIX century. a steady warming began and after 100 years the climate acquired the character that we consider to be the regional climate norm.

– How will the climate in the Volgograd region change during this century?

– The shortest Brückner climate cycle fits into human life. It lasts 80-90 years and consists of two phases. The first is dominated by the movement of the air masses in the direction near the meridians. For the Russian plain, this means dominance for most of the year of air masses of marine origin, warmer in summer and colder in winter than those formed over the continents, and at any time of the year more humid. This phase, the so-called era of meridional atmospheric circulation, began again in the middle of the last decade. In the second phase, called the era of zonal circulation, the transmission of air masses prevails along the parallels, but at the same time it is often and for a long time blocked by powerful and long-lived anticyclones, within which continental air masses are formed, which are very cold in winter, very hot on summer and at any time of the year drier. Therefore, every elderly person who talks about the climate used to be different than it is now is the truth. In the Lower Volga region, the average annual temperature has increased by 2 degrees over the past 60 years.

Over the next 10 years, a new climate reality will take shape in Volgograd: the warm season of the year will be extended by 2-3 weeks, the winter weather will soften and at the same time the probability of extreme summer heat and drought will decrease significantly. In the southern part of the Eastern European plain, the climate of the northern subtropics will be formed. That is, the climate in our Lower Volga region will be about the same as on the southern coast of Crimea or in the region of the resorts on the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus.

– Is it dangerous or do we need to relax, because we have a real weather paradise ahead of us?

– One of the most serious dangers associated with global warming is the rise in the level of the world’s oceans, which is leading to coastal flooding. It is currently rising by about 3.2 mm per year, 2.5 times faster than ten to twelve years ago. With
In 1900 the sea level rose by 21 cm and by 7 cm since the beginning of this century, but the global temperature has risen during this time
only one and a half degrees! The UN has commissioned to limit its growth to two degrees.


Photo: Dmitry Rogulin / City News

The bottom is beginning to approach

– Anatoly Viktorovich, what if science can not handle the coming weather changes?

– Then humanity will have very big problems. There are different scenarios for a climate catastrophe. When the sea level rises
more than 400 million people will be in the zone of permanent floods per meter. The people of Volgograd will not be affected by this. But when it rises by three meters, which is predicted at the end of the century during a scenario with a global temperature increase of 4 degrees, then 80% of the world’s great plains, where most of the grain is produced, will be flooded. 2-3 billion people will leave their habitats in search of space for life. This will be an unprecedented migration of people, the consequences of which are frightening to imagine.

There will also be a disaster in the Lower Volga region. Water from the Black Sea will break into a wide stream through the Kumo-Manych depression into the Caspian Sea. The Caspian Depression will be flooded within 20-30 years, and Volgograd residents will be on the beach, gradually washing away urban blocks on the sedimentary cliffs of the Volga Upland. Residents will have to leave their homes. Let us therefore hope that the international community will still be able to cope with the climate challenges it has created for itself.

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