The UN announced on Tuesday that the 38 degrees Celsius recorded in Siberia last year was a new record high for the Arctic, raising “alarm bells” about climate change.
The scorching heat, equivalent to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, was reported in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk on June 20, 2020, marking the hottest temperature ever recorded above the Arctic Circle, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The WMO has included record heat in the Arctic to its collection of extreme weather reports for the first time, and it comes during an unprecedented wave of worldwide temperature surges, according to the UN body.
“This new Arctic record is part of a succession of observations reported to the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes that raise warning bells about our changing climate,” said WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes chief Petteri Taalas in a statement.
Temperatures have been measured in Verkhoyansk, which is roughly 115 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, since 1885.
The temperature, which was “more befitting the Mediterranean than the Arctic,” was registered at a meteorological station during an unusually protracted Siberian heatwave, according to the agency.
It added that for much of the summer, average temperatures in Arctic Siberia were up to 10 degrees Celsius above normal, fueling fires and dramatic sea-ice loss.
The heatwave also contributed to 2020 being named one of the three hottest years on record around the world.
According to Taalas, the Antarctic continent reached a new record high of 18.3 degrees Celsius last year.
The World Meteorological Organization is still looking into the 54.4 degrees Celsius recorded in Death Valley, California, in both 2020 and 2021.
Its specialists are also seeking to verify a new European temperature record of 48.8 degrees Celsius set this summer on the Italian island of Sicily.
Taalas stated that the WMO’s archive “had never had so many ongoing simultaneous inquiries.”
The archive keeps records of the world’s hottest and lowest temperatures, rainfall, heaviest hailstone, longest dry spell, greatest wind gust, longest lightning flash, and weather-related deaths.
The addition of record Arctic heat reflected the region’s tremendous changes.
Although the entire planet is warming, certain areas are warming faster than others – the Arctic’s rate of change is more than twice that of the rest of the world.
“This analysis illustrates the rising temperatures in a climatically crucial part of the world,” said Randall Cerveny, an agency weather expert.
After WMO included temperature extremes for the Antarctic region in 2007, the new category allows both polar regions to be represented.
The specialists did not provide a previous record temperature for the location because this was a new climatic category in the archive, but they did say they had proven that no temperatures of 38 degrees Celsius or higher had ever been measured there before.
The coldest temperature ever recorded above the Arctic Circle was -69.6 degrees Celsius (-93.9 degrees Fahrenheit) on Greenland on December 22, 1991, according to the World Meteorological Organization.