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Kamchatka where it is 29.83 inches, giving a range of less
than .4 of an inch, while the greater part of the country lies
between the isobars of 29.94 and 30.10 inches.

In June the high area is all broken up, and by July the
shifting of the oceanic low to the continent is complete, and a
great area of low pressure is found over Siberia. The center
of this, with a pressure of 29.63, is south of the Russian pos-
sessions over the western extension of the Desert of Gobi
sometimes called the Tarim Desert, which lies south of the
Tian-Shan Mountains. A large and distinct lobe of this low



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THE CLIMATE 521

area less than 29.70, projects to the northeast so as to cover
the larger part of the Yakutsk district. This gives a great
cyclonic movement of the winds where in the winter there was
an anti-cyclonic movement.

Towards the Pacific and Arctic oceans the barometer pressure
gradually rises.

In the chart of the smmner atmospheric pressure it is to be
noted that the low area is much more pronounced in Asia than
in North America, the larger continent giving the greater ex-
tremes. In America the lowest normal is at Yuma, on the
Gulf of California, where the pressure is 29.80 inches. From
here the low area extends northward over the hot arid and
desert r^ons of the southwest. This is not as low as the
Asiatic (29.63 inches) by .17 inch.

By the middle of autumn, October, the low area has shifted
again to the Pacific, and a high area, with a pressure of 30.34
inches, has become established between lakes Baikal and
Balkash.

A rather full description of the position of the high and low
barometer areas and their resulting winds has been given, be-
cause on these depend all the meteorological facts now to be
considered.

Temperature

The map of the isotherms showing the annual temperature
does not give a fair idea of the actual rigor of the climate,
because the difference between the winter cold and summer
heat is so enormous. The isotherm of 32* F. passes through



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522 ASIATIC RUSSIA

Archangel, Tobolsk, Tomsk, the north end of Lake Baikal,
Chita, Blagovestchensk, and the southern part of Kamchatka ;
while an annual temperature of over 50* F. is found through-
out the Aral, Transcaspian, and Caucasus regions, and reaches
as high as 68"" F. south of the Caspian Sea.

As already remarked, the pole of cold for the world is found
in the center of the Yakutsk district at Verkhoyansk, where
the normal monthly mean temperature for December and Janu-
ary is 54* F. below zero, and for February 47* F. below zero.
It might be noted, for the sake of comparison, that the lowest
monthly mean in North America is — ^30* F. on Great Slave
Lake. The positicm of this point of extreme cold is not in
the north-central part of the continent, as might be expected,
but considerably to the northeast of it. This is due to the,
southwesterly winds, circling around the grezt winter high
pressure area, which blow from the Atlantic across Europe and
Western Siberia, modif3ring the temperature enough even at
that great distance to push the pole of cold at least six hun-
dred miles to the northeast of its natural position.

The lowest temperature ever observed on the earth was at
this pole of cold, Verkhoyansk, where it has fallen to —90*
F. (—67.8 C). At Yakutsk it has fallen as low as — 84* F.
and in the more populous re^on at Krasnoyarsk to — 67* F.
at Irkutsk to —Si* F., at Omsk to —56' F., and at Tobolsk
to— 58*R

During the whole winter, but more especially the late fall
and early winter. Lake Baikal has a pronounced modifying
influence on the temperature of the r^on immediately sur-



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THE CLIMATE 523

rounding it. In December the normal temperature at the
head of the Angara River, forty miles above Irkutsk, is i8*
F. higher than that of the country one hundred miles from
there in any direction. As the winter advances, this diflference
becomes less. In January it is but 14** F. higher than the sur-
rounding country, and in February not over f F. higher.

With the exception of the very southwestern part of Asiatic
Russia, the springs are very late and the autumns correspond-
ingly early. The isotherm indicating a normal temperature
of 32** F. for April, passes a little south of Archangel, just
north of Tobolsk, through Omsk, and then swings oflF in an
easterly direction north of Lake Baikal to the central part
of the island of Sakhalin in the Pacific. The corresponding
isotherm in North America lies considerably north of the United
States-Canada botmdary in the west, dips south into North
Dakota, then crosses the north end of Lake Superior, and
curves gradually to the northeast, reaching the Atlantic about
the middle of the Labrador coast.

The summer temperature of Siberia is high, the maximum
often rising to oppressive degrees. The isotherm of 68* F.
for July passes just south of Moscow, north of Omsk, south
of Tomsk, then swings off considerably north of Lake Baikal
to latitude 6o*, where it continues to the east till near the Sea
of Japan, when it turns abruptly south and passes below Vladi-
vostok. In the arid plains and desert south of the Aral and
Caspian seas, the normal rises to 90** F. and even 93* F. On
the map showing the normal temperatures for July, the cooling
eflfect of Lake Baikal on the immediate vicinity is clearly shown,



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524 ASIATIC RUSSIA

reducing the temperature over the lake lo"* F. In August and
the early autumn its influence is comparatively slight.

The limit to the region in which the maximum temperature
has been known to rise to 95* F. passes through St. Petersburg,
swings to the south across the Urals, then north, crossing the
Obi River three hundred miles below Tobolsk, turns south
again to Tomsk, and then works northeast, reaching as far
north as latitude 68** in the district of Yakutsk. Near the
Pacific coast it turns suddenly south and passes through Vladi-
vostok. The limit of a maximum of 104** F. passes up the east
coast of the Caspian Sea, curves around its north end to the
Caucasus, works north to the latitude of Moscow, although
several hundred miles east of there, it turns southeast to Semi-
palatinsk, passes just south of Irkutsk across the south end of
Lake Baikal, and then in a curve around the north end of the
Desert of Gobi, turns south to the Gulf of Pechili. In the
desert regions of Turkestan and the Caspian Sea the tempera-
ture runs much higher. At Tashkent the highest official record
is 108** F. while at Kizil Arvat, in the desert east of the south
end of the Caspian Sea, it has gone up to 11 1* F. More re-
markable than this, however, is the temperature of 102* F.
recorded at Yakutsk, in 63** N. Lat.

From these figures, leaving out the hot desert region of the
south, it is evident that Siberia is not only a land of great cold,
but also of intense heat. The center of greatest annual range
of temperature on the earth is found in Northeastern Siberia,
and lies somewhat south of the pole of cold. Yakutsk, with its
winter record of —€4* F., and summer record of 102** F.,



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THE CLIMATE 525

has an absolute range of 186"*, and yet for 270 years this town
has flourished, and now has a population of over 5,000.

Relative Humidity

Asiatic Russia, as r^^ds relative humidity, or the amount
of invisible moisture suspended in the air, is divided into two
distinct sections. The atmosphere in all of the northern part,
of Siberia, is quite moist, although the precipitation is slight.
It has an annual relative humidity of over 70 per cent, 100
per cent representing complete saturation of the air, which in-
creases steadily to the north, and reaches over 85 per cent on
the Arctic Ocean at the mouths of the Obi, Yenisei, and Lena
rivers. With the exception of the very northern part, this
is about the same as in the United States, where from 70 per
cent to 80 per cent is a fair average.

The southern part, or Turkestan region, on the other hand,
is very dry. South of the Kirghiz Steppes the relative humidity
is less than 70 per cent ; at Tashkent but 60 per cent, over the
elevated Pamir 50 per cent, and over a large area south of the
Aral Sea including the Oasis of Merv, it is but 50 per cent.

During the winter months, December, January and February,
the whole of Siberia has a relative humidity greater than 80
per cent, and during February it reaches 90 per cent around
ihe mouths of the Obi and Yenisei rivers. At this time, also,
the atmosphere over the southern area is more moist than at
any other time of the year. The region with a humidity of
80 per cent extends nearly to Lake Balkash and south of the
Aral Sea; while at Merv it is above 70 per cent most of the



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526 ASIATIC RUSSIA

time. In the Caucasus the range is from 70 per cent to 80
per cent. The comparatively high relative humidity of 70
per cent, which prevails around Merv during February, docs
not last long. In April it is 50 per cent, in May 40 per cent, in
June 30 per cent, and at its lowest in July, when it is but 25
per cent. After this it increases as gradually as it fell, reaching
50 per cent in November. During the three sununer months
the whole of the Turkestan area has a relative humidity less
than 55 per cent. Siberia has more uniform conditions. Its
atmosphere is the driest during June, when the greater part
of it is included between the 60 per cent and 70 per cent lines.
The extreme northern part does not fall below 80 per cent^
and usually ranges between 85 per cent and 90 per cent The
coast region near Vladivostok has a relative humidity of from
70 per cent to 75 per cent in winter, but increases to 85 per
cent in the summer.

If we except the Turkestan region, it win be seen that Russia
in Europe and all her Asiatic possessions have a remarkable
uniformity as regards the relative humidity.

Precipitation

(Russia in Europe and her possessions southwest of the Cau-
casus and on the Pacific coast are well watered, while the
enormous stretch between is but scantily watered, and the
great Transcaspian rejrfon is a desert waste, except where
irrigated by the rivers flowing down from the high mountains
of Southern Turkestan. The precipitation throughout the more



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THE CLIMATE 527

thickly inhabited section of Siberia is about the same as that
in the western part of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Dakota,
and slightly less than that of the wheat region of Manitoba.

The section of heaviest precipitation is south of the Caucasus
at the east end of the Black Sea, where the mountains squeeze
the moisture out of the warm winds from the sea, and precipi-
tate it in frequent rains. The two centers of heaviest rainfall
are at Batum, and farther north on the coast at Sogu, where
the normal for the year reaches seventy-nine inches. From
here eastward the amount decreases very rapidly, and on the
Caspian Sea is less than eleven inches, except around Baku,
where it is slightly greater. On the Pacific coast the southern
part of Kamchatka has over twenty inches, and the extreme
point over thirty-nine inches. The lower Amur and the Mari-
time Province are well watered, with from twenty to thirty
inches.

Roughly speaking. Eastern and Southern Russia and the
southern half of Siberia receive between eleven and twenty
inches of precipitation. Also the high mountains of Southern
Turkestan receive between eleven and sixteen inches. All the
remainder of Asiatic Russia has less than eleven inches. Most
of the arctic tundra region of the north and northeast has less
than eight inches. The districts of Akmolinsk, Uralsk, Astra-
kan. the Transcaspian region and most of Turkestan receive
less than eleven inches a year, so that the v^etation, except
in the irrigated portions, is only fit to furnish grazing for the
cattle and sheep of the nomad tribes. Furthermore, a large



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528 ASIATIC RUSSIA

part of this area south of the Aral Sea has less than four
inches, and is an absolute desert waste, except along the imme-
diate banks of the Syr Daria and Amu Daria which cross it.

Russia and Siberia receive most of their precipitation during
the summer, especially July and August. The number of days
with rain during the three summer months throughout all this
area is between thirty and forty, except in Central Russia and
along the middle course of the Yenisei River, where it is
slightly greater. An irregular area extending from St. Peters-
burg and Moscow through Perm and as far east as Tobdsk,
receives over 7.88 inches of rain during the summer. Alter
a break of between four and five hundred miles, this belt
begins again at Tomsk, and extends southeastward in a narrow
strip to the south end of Lake Baikal, where it swings north
over the lake, and then, turning eastward, broadens out so
as to include the whole of the Amur Basin, the lower part of
which from near Blagovestchensk, and including Khabarovsk
and down the coast to near Vladivostok, receives over 11.82
inches. To the north of this almost continuous belt across
Russia and Siberia, the summer precipitation gradually di-
minishes to the Arctic Ocean, where it is less than three inches.

In the Transcaspian region the month of maximum precipi-
tation is March, further north April, around Lake Balkash
it is May, while in the steppe country of Semipalatinsk and
Akmolinsk most of the rain falls during the early summer
months, June and July. The amount of rainfall during the
spring season in the Transcaspian and Turkestan region, with
the exception of the mountains to the south, is nearly two



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THE CLIMATE 529

inches, that is, one half of the precipitation for the year. The
maximum precipitation on the east coast of the Black Sea at
Batum and north of there is during January and December, the
total for the winter season being 20.64 inches. The sections
around Baku, on the Caspian, and the island of Sakhalin, in
the Pacific, receive their maximum amount of precipitation
during September.

Throughout Russia and Siberia the minimum amount of pre-
cipitation comes during January, February and March, while
in Turkestan it is during August and September. The total
summer rainfall is between four tenths of an inch and one
inch, and the number of days with raiii from five to ten.

Diagram i gives four typical precipitation percentage curves
for the seasons and does not represent minor monthly fluctu-
ations. The curve for Vladivostok shows a winter minimum
of 5.5 per cent reached during January and February, with a
maximum of 44 per cent in summer, when it reaches its highest
during August. This curve much resembles that for New York
City. The curve for Irkutsk, with its very high maximum of
61 per cent for the summer and reaching its highest during
August, is the characteristic curve for most of Siberia. The
percentage curve for Turkestan is well represented by that for
Bokhara, where 46 per cent falls during the spring and 32
per cent during the winter, leaving but 22 per cent for the other
half of the year. That is, during the summer and autumn only
.92 of an inch falls against 3.24 inches during the other half
year. This spring season is moist enough to furnish for a short
time a profuse vegetation, so that for a while the desert



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530 ASIATIC RUSSIA

blossoms like the rose, and the Kirghiz Tartars have plenty
of grazing for their sheep and cattle. The Batum rainfall is
quite uniform with its maximum in the autunm when 36 per
cent of the 86 inches falls.

It is interesting to note that in the region of the Middle
Yenisei, where there are but eleven inches of precipitation a
year, there are 160 days on which it falls; while at Batum,
where they get 78 inches, there are only 120 days with rain-
fall. In the Transcaspian region there are between thirty and
forty days with precipitation, and in the southern part of the
districts of Akmolinsk and Semipalatinsk there are between
forty and eighty. The Island of Sakhalin is favored with
between 120 and 160 days with precipitation.

The percentage of clouds increases from 35 per cent south of
the Aral Sea and the Desert of Gobi to 65 per cent in North-
western Siberia and 75 per cent at Archangel in Russia. The
larger part of Siberia has a cloud percentage of from 55 per
cent to 65 per cent, which is quite evenly distributed throughout
the year.

Freezing and Opening of the Rivers

As a large part of the communication in Siberia is by river
boats, the dates of the closing and opening of navigation are
of great interest and imtx)rtance. The mouth of the Obi freezes
over about October 23 and remains closed tmtil May 31, a
period of 220 days. The mouth of the Yenisei closes ten days
earlier, October 13, and does not open till June 10, a period of



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THE CLIMATE 531

240 days. The Lena at its delta freezes October 3, and re-
mains so for 260 days, or t31 the 20th of June.

The Irtysh River from near Pavlodar to its junction with
the Obi freezes over between November 2 and 12, and opens
in its southern portion and near Tobolsk between April 21 and
May I. At Omsk, and near its union with the Obi, it opens
between the ist and nth of May; that is, it is closed from
170 to 180 days. At Tomsk the river Obi freezes on Novem-
ber 2, and opens on May i, being closed 180 days. The Yenisei
from Krasnoyarsk to Yeniseisk and several hundred miles
further north does not freeze till after the 12th of December,
and opens between the ist and nth of May; so that it is
closed about 170 da3rs. The upper Angara and Selenga rivers
are closed 170 days, from November 12 to May i. The Lena
at Yakutsk is closed 215 days, from October 18 to May 21.
The upper Amur and its very mouth close about the 12th of
November, while the river at Khabarovsk does not close l)ef ore
the 22d of November and all but the mouth opens by May
I, and the mouth by May ii.



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XXVIII

FLORA AND FAUNA
Flora

ASIATIC Russia covers such a vast territory of widely
different physical and climatic conditions that its flora
is very diversified. For convenience the region may
be roughly divided into the Arctic Tundra, the Forest, the
Steppe, the Desert, and the Mountain, with its sub-divisions
into the Sub-Alpine and Alpine zones. From this general
division, however, should be separated the Lower Amur and
Kamchatka r^ons.

I. The Arctic Tundra.— The flora of the Arctic Tundra very
much resembles that of European Russia, especially in Western
Siberia. To the east, numbers of American species are found,
so that some authors would make two sub-divisions in this
zone. One extends from the Urals to the Yenisei River, and
the other from there to Bering Sea. According to Semenov,
from whom we freely quote:

" Nearly all this zone's characteristic low growing, stunted shrubs,—
for example one species of arbutus (Arctostaphilus alpina. Ad.) the
heathers or andromedas (Cassiope tetragona, Don., C, hypnoides, Don.,
PhyUodoce sasifoUa, SaHsb,, LoiseUnria procumbens, Don.), a species
of ledum (LaHfoUum Ait), also belonging to the European flora, a

53a



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FLORA AND FAUNA 533

•olitaiy spedci of the polar azalea (Osmothamnus fragrans, DC).
and one pdar willow {SaHx arcHca, L.)— are not met with in Eu-
ropean Rtittia."*

On the northern border of Taimur Land, during the short
summer Nordenskjold found that

"the plaint were all covered with a very green continuous vegeta-
tion, which, however, on a closer examination, was found to be not a
true turf but a mixture of grasses, allied plants, and a large number
of different kinds of mosses and lichens. Actual flowers were found
only sparingly. ... On the other hand the abundance of luxuri-
ous lichens and mosses wtis striking." Of flowering plants Dr. Kj ell-
man collected thirty-four in this region.t

On the Taimur Peninsula, Middendorff found

"one hundred and twenty-four plants, among which were the very
lowest, it might be said, dwarf shrubs of the arctic species of birch
(Betula nana, L.); willow {Salix polaris, Wahl., S, lanata, L., S.
glauca, L., S, arcHca, Pali., S, taimyrensis, Trautv,) and also a ledum
(Ledum palustre, L.) and an andromeda (Cassiope tetragona, Don.) ;
and of herbaceous plants, seventeen species of Cruciferae, fourteen
Compositae, seven Stellarae (Alsine, Stellaria, cerasHum), twelve
ttonecrops (Saxifraga), six species of Pedicularis, five astragals (of
the genera Phaca and oxytropis), five Rosaeeae (Dryas Suversia, Po-
tentiUa) and six crowfoots (Ranunculus, Caltha, Delphinium). Of the
one hundred and twenty-four plants mentioned, thirty do not belong
to the polar types, but are common to the whole of Siberia, and for
the most part cross over on the one side into Europe, and on the other
into America. The remaining ninety-four plants are completely arctic



* Siberia and the Great Siberian Railway, p. ap.
t For his list see The Voyage of the Vega. p. 253-



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534 ASIATIC RUSSIA

types. Much more than half of them (fifty-four) are met with over
the whde polar zone, alike of the Old and of the New World, and in
part come forth upon the Alps of the Altai Sayan range; but some
are peculiar to Siberia alone (twelve), or only appear outside in
Europe (ten), or more frequently in America (eighteen) species." *

To the east, in the Yakutsk district,

"the surface vegetation of the tundras consists principally of moss,
of the Polytrichum, Bryum, and Hypnum varieties. From underneath
the dark brown surface, grass crops up in places, here and there form-
ing grass plots, but more often growing in separate patches on the
bare clay soil. This kind of grass flora not only closely resembles that
of the corresponding parts of Siberia proper, but is also much like the
flora of Western Europe. Thus, out of ninety-two distinctly flowering
plants collected by Nordenskj old's expedition, at their winter quarters
beyond the eastern extremity of the Yakutsk frontier country, but
still on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, more than two thirds, namely
sixty-three, were varieties common to the arctic zone of Europe but not
descending into Russia in Europe; seventeen were American varieties
also common to the arctic zone of Siberia, but not known in European
Russia, whilst twelve were exclusively Siberian arctic forms. Very
few of these latter are peculiar only to the northeastern corner of
Siberia. . . . The local flora is characterized by the large amount
of gramineous plants, which in some places form a continuous sward.
There were in all thirteen different kinds found, and amongst these
the original varieties were Glyceria vilfoidea, Th, Fr., Gl. vaginata,
I. Lge., Gl. Arctophylla effusa, L Lge, There are plenty of bushes of
different kinds of low polar willows, the rarer varieties being Salix
chamissonis, And., S. cuneata, Trautv,, and S, boganidensis, Trautv."f



* Siberia and the Gfreat Siberian Railway, p. 39.
t Ibid. pp. 47-4S.



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FLORA AND FAUNA 535

The vegetation here advances very rapidly in the early
summer. The first flower that Nordenskjold observed in the
spring, when he wintered in the northern part of Yakutsk, was
the spoonwort (Cochlearia fenestrata, R. Br,) which bloomed
on June 23d. Within a week the whole ttmdra was covered
with flowers.

Towards the southern part of this tundra region, the fringe
of the forest belt appears in dwarfed lichen-covered trees,
mostly birch, which put forth only a few buds a year, and after
a hundred years of such existence are not more than a few feet
high.

2. Forest Zone. — ^The forest zone extends across Asia from
the Urals to the Pacific, and is bounded on the north by the
Arctic Tundra, and on the south by the Aral-Caspian steppes
and the Mongolian steppes and deserts. Within it are included
what the Germans call the " Mountain Forest " zone, extending
from the Tian-Shan east and northeast to the Pacific Ocean.
In some places the forests are dense and unbroken, as alon^
the Obi Valley ; in others, they are thin, as in the southeastern
part of Transbaikalia ; while to the north they deteriorate into
thickets of dwarf birch.

From an econ(Mnic point of view the forest lands may be
divided into the Northern Forest of Tall-Stemmed Trees, the
Birch Forests, and the Mountain Woodlands. The first of
these, the Forest of Tall-Stemmed Trees, extends uninter-


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Online LibraryH[enry] Justin RoddyComplete geography → online text (page 16 of 22)