A new record of summer heat is registered in the Arctic Circle

26 Juni 2020

Temperatures of 38 degrees Celsius are hardly unusual in June in many a place worldwide, but they do seem extraordinary north of the Arctic Circle.

Yet on June 20 local meteorologists in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk, which is in an area of eastern Siberia called Yakutia, reported that the mercury climbed all the way up to 38 degrees.

The record high temperature, which has yet to be verified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), came during a summer heatwave in the region. The town’s meteorological station, which has provided measurements daily since 1885, reported the previous air temperature record of 37.3 degrees Celsius on July 25 back in 1988.

“It has been an unusually hot spring in Siberia, and the coinciding lack of underlying snow in the region combined with overall global temperature increases, undoubtedly helped play a critical role in causing this extreme temperature observation,” notes Randall Cerveny, the WMO’s special rapporteur on weather and climate extremes who is a professor of geographical sciences at Arizona State University in the United States.

The MO has warned that the Arctic, which is among the fastest warming regions in the world, is heating at a rate that is twice the global average. “Annual surface air temperatures over the last 4 years (2016–2019) in the Arctic (60°–85°N) have been the highest on record,” the UN organization explains.

“The volume of Arctic sea-ice in the month of September 2019 (after the melting season) has declined by more than 50% compared to the mean value for 1979–2019,” it adds.

The planet is warming as a whole, but the pace of warming can differ from region to region. Western Siberia is warming especially fast, which “means that, to some extent, large temperature anomalies are not unexpected,” observes the Copernicus Climate Change Service agency in Europe. “However, what is unusual in this case is how long the warmer-than-average anomalies have persisted.”

Climate experts say that extreme weather events such as heatwaves in what are supposed to be areas with a temperate climate are becoming more frequent owing to the effects of manmade climate change.

“Temperatures are carrying on rising. We are seeing continuing extreme weather events,” said Clare Nullis, a spokesperson for WMO. “Temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius in July are not unusual [in the area of Verkhoyansk], but obviously 38 degrees Celsius is exceptional.”

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