The city experienced the darkest month in its recorded history in December. NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly speaks with reporter Charles Maynes, who lived through those nearly sunless weeks.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Think you’re having a long, dark winter? Well, spare a thought for the poor residents of Moscow who in December endured the darkest month in that city’s recorded history – six minutes of sunlight. I’ll repeat that – six minutes the entire month of December. Well, we couldn’t help wondering what that was like to live through, and Moscow reporter Charles Maynes, who endured the darkness, is on the line now from Moscow. Hey there, Charles.
CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: Good to be with you.
KELLY: Good to have you with us, and congratulations on surviving.
MAYNES: Oh, thanks.
KELLY: This was, to be clear, six minutes all at once, one blinding flash, or was it meted out a few seconds over a number of days?
MAYNES: Oh, it was painfully meted out over a number of days. And yeah, so it was – you could enjoy just every 30 seconds or so as it came by.
KELLY: What is typical for December in Moscow? How much sunlight do you usually get?
MAYNES: Well, you know, Moscow isn’t exactly known as a sunny destination in December. Usually we get around 18 hours of sunlight for the month. Just to put a little perspective, the previous record in terms of lack of sunlight was just a whopping three hours. So in a sense, this year just destroyed it of course with six minutes.
KELLY: Yeah, I mean, a big difference between your typical 18 hours and the six minutes that you got this December – what caused this? I mean, do we know why?
MAYNES: Well, I’m no meteorologist, but I – you know, if you read about meteorologists who do study these things, they blame it on anomalies in cyclone patterns over the Atlantic. And then you combine that with warmer than average seasonal temperatures. It was downright balmy for December in Moscow, well above freezing for most of the month, no snow. You know, all this somehow contributed to a wall of clouds that basically never moved. You know, it felt like “Groundhog Day” all December. Except for those six glorious minutes, every day was identical.
KELLY: (Laughter) OK, well, what were your days like? I mean, did this affect your daily routine?
MAYNES: Well, you know, those six minutes – I mean, I pretty much remember every single one of them. You’d be in the middle of your day, working or meeting a friend. And if you were lucky enough to be either outside or near a window, you know, you’d suddenly feel this kind of shift in your mood, you know, something along the lines of – I think it’s called happiness…
MAYNES: …Only to have it disappear before you managed to kind of take it all in.
KELLY: So fleeting – I mean, I – you know, we’re laughing, but I mean, people do get seasonal affective disorder. You know, people get depressed in winter months. This is a real thing. Could you see an impact on people’s moods?
MAYNES: I think it’s pretty well-ingrained in the national psyche – this sort of dour sense of mood. And I don’t think that Russians really embrace this idea of seasonal affective disorder.
KELLY: Charles, how is January shaping up so far? Are you getting any more sunshine?
MAYNES: Not a whole lot more sunshine, but we’ve got snow finally. Today was nice weather. And even just the white snow certainly cheers up the mood.
KELLY: All righty, thanks, Charles.
MAYNES: Thank you.
KELLY: Talking to reporter Charles Maynes about the six minutes of sunshine that Moscow got in December. And I’m going to point out this conversation just lasted about three minutes…
KELLY: …Half of that time.