A small community in northeastern Siberia likely set the record for the highest temperature ever recorded above the Arctic Circle in June 2020. Temperatures soared to 100.4°F (38°C) in the town of Verkhoyansk, making it the first reading above that threshold in recorded history.
Russians have been recording temperatures and weather readings since 1885. The United States and Europe began to do keep this information around the same time.
The Siberian Arctic is in the middle of a massive heatwave. The region has seen six months of unusual warmth, creating average temperatures ten degrees higher for the month than average. Many believe that these readings are the most persuasive evidence yet that global warming trends change the landscape of our planet.
How the Excessive Heat Changes the Arctic
The trends seen in the Siberian Arctic are similar to what other cold-weather climates are experiencing. Temperatures are at or near the record levels of 2018 and 2019, sometimes by more than two degrees.
When excessive heat reaches the Arctic (or the Antarctic), moisture trapped in the ground evaporates into the atmosphere. This process saps the soil and plant life of the nutrients needed for survival, creating a tinder that serves as fuel for numerous wildfires.
Russia announced in July 2020 that the Siberian region was experiencing almost 250 separate forest fires. A total of 140,000 hectares was burning, creating an emergency declaration for several areas. Even local state television showed planes dumping waters on massive columns of white smoke.
Some Heatwaves in Siberia Are Expected
The year-over-year temperature fluctuations above the Arctic Circle are somewhat expected. Massive shifts in climate can happen annually, and sometimes these alterations occur in weeks or months.
That’s why having such an unusually warm spell, with the Arctic warming faster than the rest of the planet, is such a worrisome event.
The hot temperatures and forest fires are doing more than melting glaciers or rising sea levels. Carbon emissions from Siberia measuring 59 megatons in June 2020, up over 10% from the year before.
That means the hot temperatures are creating a cycle that encourages more warmth to develop. Although winter will bring cold and snow, changes to the permafrost could cause permanent problems.