The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has verified a new temperature record of 38 ° C north of the Arctic Circle. The reported value was recorded on June 20 in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk, in the context of a prolonged Siberian heat wave and an increase in forest fires.
Verkhoyansk, located in the northern part of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), is in a region of Eastern Siberia subject to a severely dry extreme continental climate, in which winters are very cold and summers are hot.
According to scientists German Alekseenkov and Vasily Smolyanitsky, from the Research Institute on the Arctic and Antarctic of the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (Roshydromet), on July 25, 1988 it had already been recorded at the Verkhoyansk meteorological station a record air temperature of 37.3 ° C. That station has been providing daily measurements since 1885.
When all the meteorological data are available, it will be possible to determine if this is an unprecedented maximum value for the whole of the Arctic region north of the Arctic Circle.
As soon as Roshydromet confirms this temperature value to WMO, the Organization will forward the finding to a team of researchers from its Archive of Extreme Weather and Climate Phenomena for verification. In this file, detailed information is consigned on extreme values of world, hemispheric and continental scope (heat, precipitation, etc.).
To date, the WMO has not verified possible records for the highest temperature recorded north of the Arctic Circle. However, due to the interest in observing this extreme value, the possibility of establishing this new category in the Official Archive is currently being studied, according to Randall Cerveny, WMO Special Spokesperson on Extreme Weather and Climate Events.
"A WMO Rapid Response Team assessing the record has tentatively estimated that this is a valid observation, consistent with upper-air observations in Siberia at the time," said Professor Cerveny. "Now a standardized process will be initiated in which a WMO team of atmospheric scientists will carry out a detailed formal review."
“The spring in Siberia has been unusually warm, and this has coincided with an underlying lack of snow in the region which, combined with the general increase in global temperatures, has undoubtedly contributed in a decisive way to the production of this extreme value. temperature, ”said Professor Cerveny, Honorary Professor of Geographic Sciences at Arizona State University.
As part of the verification process, WMO is in contact with the Russian Meteorological Service to collect direct data related to the observation, such as the actual time, the type of equipment used, the quality verification processes and the calibration of the instrument. , the monitoring techniques of the observations or the correspondence with the data of adjacent stations, among others.
“These data will be examined very carefully by an international group of specialists in atmospheric sciences. These evaluations are, in essence, very extensive and laborious projects. However, the end result will be an incredibly valuable source of information that, in addition to helping climatologists better understand the climate and enhancing the preparation of engineers and physicians for extreme weather events, will also raise awareness of the general population about it. climate change affecting the planet, ”said Professor Cerveny.
The Arctic is warming faster
The Arctic is one of the regions around the world where temperatures are rising the fastest, given that the rate of warming is twice the world average. Annual surface air temperatures for the last four years (2016-2019) in the Arctic (between 60 ° and 85 ° N) have been the highest for which data is available. The volume of sea ice in that region in the month of September 2019 (after the thaw season) has been reduced by more than 50% with respect to the average value of the period between 1979 and 2019.
Siberia has seen exceptional heat, with temperatures up to 10 ° C (18.5 ° F) above the May average. As a result, the warmest May on record has been recorded in the entire Northern Hemisphere, and indeed the entire world.
But not only has the month of May been unusually mild in this region; Throughout the winter and spring there have been periods of above-average surface air temperatures, particularly from January onwards.
The atypical heat of winter and spring has been linked to an exceptionally early thaw of Siberian rivers.
The Copernicus European Climate Change Service carried out a more detailed study of their data.
“Although the planet as a whole is warming, that process is not uniform. Western Siberia, for example, is a region that stands out for having a warming rate above average and whose inter-monthly and inter-annual temperature variations tend to be considerable. This means that to some extent large temperature anomalies are not unexpected. However, what is exceptional in this case is the duration of the above-average temperature anomalies ”, noted from Copernicus.
For its part, the Copernicus atmospheric surveillance service indicated that the amount and intensity of forest fires in northeast Siberia and in the Arctic Circle have not stopped increasing in recent days. The total daily intensity presents levels similar to those observed in 2019.
A very hot 2020
Over the period June to August 2020, temperatures will remain above normal in most of the Arctic, according to forecasts from the Arctic Climate Forum, which provides decision-makers with data on a rapidly evolving region and whose warming rate is more than double the world average.
As part of the debate on the regional consequences for western and eastern Siberia, the Forum warned of the potential risk of forest fires in early summer due to above-normal temperatures and below-normal rainfall. normal. The expected high temperatures can lead to continued degradation of the permafrost and lead to coastal erosion. In addition, the reduction in the extent of sea ice and the degradation of the permafrost present in the tundra can pose difficulties for so-called “celestial” species, such as polar bears, caribou or whales, among others. The thawing of permafrost also affects the stability of the structures built in the region, and can lead to the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.