UN confirms record 38C temperature for the Arctic

Siberian town of Verkhoyansk reached the temperature during a prolonged heatwave in June last year.

A man digs a control line during the work on extinguishing a forest fire near the village of Magaras in the region of Yakutia, Russia July 17, 2021 [File: Roman Kutukov/Reuters]

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has confirmed that a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) reached in a Siberian town last year was a record for the Arctic.

The United Nations’ agency said on Tuesday the temperature that hit Verkhoyansk on June 20, 2020, came during a prolonged heatwave amid conditions which averaged as much as 10C (50F) above normal for much of the summer over Arctic Siberia.

“This new Arctic record is one of a series of observations … that sound the alarm bells about our changing climate,” said Petteri Taalas, the WMO’s secretary-general.

Verkhoyansk is about 115km (71 miles) north of the Arctic Circle – a region that is among the fastest warming in the world and is heating more than twice the global average.

The WMO said in a statement the 2020 heatwave “fuelled devastating fires, drove massive sea loss and played a major role” in last year being one of the three hottest years on record.

“It is possible, indeed likely, that greater extremes will occur in the Arctic region in the future,” it added.

The body has opened a record number of investigations into weather extremes as climate change unleashes unrivalled storms and heatwaves.

Since Arctic records are a new category, the data for the Verkhoyansk probe needed checking against other records as part of a vigorous verification process involving a network of volunteers.

The record is now an official entry in the World Weather & Climate Extremes Archive, a sort of Guinness World Records for weather that also includes the heaviest hailstone and longest lightning flash.

The agency already has a category for the Antarctic and had to create a new one for the Arctic after the submission in 2020.

Last year also saw a new temperature record for the Antarctic continent of 18.3C (65F) at Argentina’s Esperanza station, while a WMO committee is also verifying other potential heat records, including in Death Valley in California in 2020.

The organisation is also seeking to validate a reported record for Europe in Italy’s Sicily, which saw the thermometer climb to 48.8C (120F) this summer.

“The WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes has never had so many ongoing simultaneous investigations,” Taalas said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies