In January, when temperatures were at the lowest of lows in Siberia, Anastasia Gruzdeva, 25, decided to pose for a picture in Yakutsk, Russia. The photo, taken 280 miles south of the Arctic Circle, propelled Gruzdeva to something of an Internet star.
At the time, Yakutsk and the rest of Siberia was in the midst of a brutally cold stretch — cold enough to freeze your eyelashes.
The photo was taken on Jan 13, a day where the high (yes high) temperature in Yakutsk reached minus-49 Fahrenheit. According to Weather Underground’s Christopher Burt, there is no record of temperatures rising above zero degrees Fahrenheit in Yakutsk from Dec. 1 and March 1.
Fast-forward six months later, Gruzdeva is back with another outdoor picture from her home in the Ust-Maysky District. This one is a little different, and perhaps slightly more cringeworthy.
The contrasting images illustrate perfectly how the weather changes from one season to the next in the extreme environment of Siberia. Instead of frozen eyelashes and ice-laden tree branches, dozens of insects crawl over Gruzdeva’s exposed skin as she stands in front on a landscape dotted with a seemingly endless array of wildflowers.
Much of Siberia, including Yakutsk, has been baking recently. According to the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization, temperatures have been exceptionally high over large parts of northern Siberia in June, a trend that has continued into July. The excessive heat has been bad enough for the Russian weather service to issue a “storm warning” with temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) for more than five days.
Wild swings in temperatures from winter to summer are a common occurrence in this part of the world. Yakutsk is totally landlocked, far from a moderating body of water like the Pacific or even Arctic oceans. Central Siberia can easily drop to minus-76 (minus-60 Celsius) in the winter followed by 86 degrees (30 Celsius) in the summer. That’s a temperature swing of over 162 degrees in just six months.
Despite this year’s iteration of the seasonal temperature swing being within a “normal” range, climate change is very evident in Gruzdeva’s most recent picture. Very often, we can use changes in insect and plant behavior as a proxy for climate change. Recent studies have shown that warmer weather in the Arctic is leading to bigger mosquitoes and greater numbers of them. As a result, humans and wildlife will be exposed to more infectious disease.