An unprecedented heatwave in one of the coldest places on Earth just reached a distressing milestone.
Temperatures in the small Siberian town of Verkhoyansk hit 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, according to public-facing weather data. It’s a record-high temperature in one of the fastest-warming places in the world.
Siberia tends to experience large swings in temperature month-to-month and year-to-year, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), a program affiliated with the European Commission. But it’s unusual for warmer-than-average temperatures to continue for so long — temperatures in Siberia have stayed well-above average since 2019.
Verkhoyansk sits on the Yana River in the Arctic Circle and, during the winter, is considered one of the world’s coldest towns — in 1892, temperatures dropped to -90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Average June temperatures in Verkhoyansk reach a high of 68 degrees Fahrenheit, so the new record-high temperature is alarming.
Distressing signs continued Monday, when satellite footage showed multiple wildfires in Siberia near the Arctic Circle. Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service senior scientist Mark Parrington noted that the number and intensity of Siberian wildfires has increased considerably, too.
Ice in Siberia’s rivers broke up “exceptionally early” in May, which was the hottest May on record in the area since records began in 1979, C3S reported.
Also in May, permafrost that melted beneath tank supports resulted in a “massive” diesel spill in the region, which could spill into the Arctic Ocean.
The dramatic swings in temperature in northwest Siberia last month would happen only once in 100,000 years if it weren’t for climate change, climate scientist Martin Stendel said.
Accelerated Arctic warming
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet through a process known as Arctic amplification.
Arctic ice melt has accelerated, which leads to seasonal snow cover that isn’t as white and absorbs more sunlight, which leads to more warming, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
That’s significant for the rest of the world, too. Melting ice in the Arctic leads to higher sea levels, and not just in the Arctic Ocean. With fewer sections of ice to reflect sunlight, the world’s oceans will warm.
Plus, NOAA’s 2019 Arctic Report Card found that thawing permafrost in the Arctic could be releasing up to 600 million tons of net carbon into the atmosphere per year.