Why is Siberia Much Colder Than Western Russia?

August 11, 2023

The idea that people would want to live in Siberia is usually met with incredulity in western countries, where it is often depicted as a land of darkness and harsh winters. It's not as cold as that image suggests however and there are plenty of reasons why so many Russians choose to settle here.

It's a hugely diverse region that includes taiga forest over most of Siberia, a complex region of steppes in the west, and a mountainous region along Russia's borders with Mongolia and China. It's also home to the world's deepest lake, Lake Baikal.

One of the main challenges people living here have to overcome is the extreme cold. Another is the vast distances between villages and towns. People here have to come up with epic solutions to cope with both of these problems. This is why Siberia has such a variety of different ways of life. It's a mix of city-dwellers with a garden, parking space and their own house in the suburbs as well as nomadic groups with reindeer and yurts.

The cold in Siberia is largely down to the fact that most of the rivers there flow north or join others that do and end up in the Arctic Ocean. As they thaw in the spring their waters back up, creating swampy bogs, and they stop flowing altogether in winter.

Western Russia gets its warmth from the Atlantic, which is close enough to allow modified maritime air to sweep in on a regular basis. But the Siberian High steers these storms away from eastern Siberia for much of the winter. The resulting cold pool starts building at the end of summer peaks in winter and usually doesn't weaken until April.


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