Kara sea

Mass Reindeer Deaths Linked to Extreme Climate Events on Yamal

November 16, 2016 • Philip Burgess
Dead Reindeer, death due to extreme climate event. Photo: Roma Serotetto

Dead Reindeer, death due to extreme climate event. Photo: Roma Serotetto

From the press release announcing a new paper entitled ‘Sea ice, rain-on-snow and tundra reindeer nomadism in Arctic Russia’ published today in the journal, Biology Letters. You can read the article in full here.

Scientists have interviewed nomadic reindeer herders in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug of West Siberia, the world’s most productive reindeer herding region, to look at how global warming is affecting their way of life. While rain-on-snow generally does not cause problems in spring, it can be catastrophic for reindeer in the autumn when rain turns to an ice crust as normal freezing temperatures return. This crust, often several centimetres thick,
prevents the reindeer from feeding on fodder beneath the snow throughout the winter
months. Two extreme weather events in 2006 and 2013 caused mass starvation among the
reindeer herds, and researchers for the first time have linked these extreme weather events
on the coastal mainland in northwest Russia with sea ice loss in the adjoining Barents and
Kara seas.

The most recent rain-on-snow event of November 2013 resulted in 61 000 reindeer deaths,
about 22% out of 275 000 reindeer on the Yamal Peninsula, says the paper, which warns
that these events seem to be increasing in severity.

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