Life in the small town of Verkhoyansk, Russia, has always been
extreme. In the Siberian winter, temperatures can plummet to -90
degrees Fahrenheit — so cold that it’s dangerous to wear metal-framed
glasses. In the summer, temperatures usually hover around a
comfortable 69 degrees. But residents of the isolated village just
north of the Arctic circle recently experienced something
unprecedented even for them: Scorching summer heat of 100.4 degrees
That temperature has yet to be given the official stamp of
verification by scientists, but it will likely set a new
record, blowing way past the June average high of 68 degrees.
If confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization, it will be
temperature ever recorded in the Arctic circle.
For months, the Arctic has been gripped by a prolonged heat wave
that has already triggered
wildfires and swarms of tree-eating moths. Other towns in
Siberia have also seen records shattered — Khatanga, Siberia,
well north of the Verkhoyansk, had temperatures of 78 degrees
Fahrenheit on May 22, a mere 46 degrees above average.
A severe heatwave is affecting
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June 23, 2020
It’s all part of the larger trend of climate change. As global
warming accelerates, the Arctic is heating up two to three times
faster than the rest of the planet. According to the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration, the earth as a whole has
warmed about 1.44 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 40 years; the
Arctic has warmed by about 3.5 degrees over the same stretch.
Judah Cohen, a scientist at the Boston-based firm Atmospheric
and Environmental Research, said that difference is mostly a result
of melting snow and sea ice. Normally, the dazzling whiteness of
ice and snow reflects the sun’s rays, creating a cooling effect,
but as warming temperatures melt that protective layer, the Arctic
gets hotter and hotter. “You have much lower reflectivity, so
much more solar radiation is being absorbed in that Arctic
region,” Cohen said.
The heating of the Arctic also has worrisome knock-on effects.
Permafrost — ancient, normally frozen Arctic soils filled
with organic carbon — has started to melt, releasing tons of
carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If that trend continues, the
planet may hit one of its
dangerous tipping points, where the climate system will be
changed for good.
Arctic heat can also weird out weather patterns all over the
planet. The fast-moving river of air known as the polar jet stream,
which oscillates around the Northern Hemisphere at up to 275 miles
per hour, is normally driven by huge temperature differences
between lower latitudes and the poles. But as the poles warm up,
the stream can get weaker, or wobble out of place, shooting
unexpected bursts of cold or warm air north or south. Some
scientists argue that this weakening also
jostles the polar vortex, causing freezing temperatures during
the Northeast winters.
Cohen said that in the summer, the jet stream can get split in
two, trapping warm air at high latitudes and causing persistent
heat waves, like the one currently plaguing Siberia. “It becomes
very favorable conditions for getting a weather system that’s
kind of stuck in place,” he said. As climate change intensifies,
areas of the Arctic circle may see more mind-boggling heat
For now, children in Verkhoyansk are swimming in nearby lakes
— and enjoying temperatures more common in Miami Beach than
This story was originally published by Grist with the headline
Summer just started and the Arctic already topped 100 degrees
on Jun 25, 2020.
Source: FS – All – Science – News
Summer just started and the Arctic already topped 100