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Sasha’s future in jeopardy as tundra melts

Life is heating up for Nenets boy Sasha on the tundra in the far north of the Barents Region. A dramatic report from Moscow says Russia heats up twice global average.

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Sasha lives on the tundra in the northernmost part of Barents Russia. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Siberia and Arctic Russia will continue to be most affected by global warming, reads a forecast from Russia’s emergency ministry Emercom. For Sasha, the warming can change his traditional way of life. The nomadic Nenets people on the tundra east of Naryan-Mar depend on the frozen tundra to live with their reindeer.

Depending on the seasons, the Sasha’s family moves around where the reindeer easiest find lichen. Scientists fear the accelerating global warming can trigger melting permafrost that in turn will release long-stored greenhouse gases bringing along even greater warming. Without permafrost, Sasha and his generation of Nenets reindeer herders can forget a nomadic life on the Russian tundra.


Not so bright future for the coming generation of nomadic Nenets on the Russian tundra. How to pull the sledge when the tundra melts? Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The extent of Arctic sea ice in the northern part of the Barents Region is exceptionally delayed this winter. Most visible are the waters along the coast of Nenets and northern Arkhangelsk Oblast. Earlier in January, BarentsObserver published a NASA sea ice map showing this winter’s dramatic reality compared with median extent for the period 1979-2000.

Read also: The heat is on

Average warming in Russia in the past 100 years was 1.5 to 2 times higher than overall global warming, according to the Russian emergencies ministry quoted by RIA Novosti.

In its climate forecast for 2012, the ministry warns of more frequent and intensified flooding in Russia.

Temperatures will continue to grow in Russia throughout the 21st century, with Siberia and Arctic Russia being most affected, the forecast reads.