Scientists with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) are examining new data indicating that temperatures in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk — located north of the Arctic Circle — hit a record-breaking 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) earlier this month. The region has experienced a prolonged heatwave, which started in January and is expected to last through at least August.
Temperatures in the region, for example, measured 10 degrees C (18.5 degrees F) above average in May. Snow cover melted and river ice in Siberia broke up “exceptionally early” this year as a result of the heatwave, according to the WMO.
“It has been an unusually hot spring in Siberia, and the coinciding lack of underlying snow in the region combined with overall global temperature increases, undoubtedly helped play a critical role in causing this extreme temperature observation,” Randall Cerveny, a climate scientist at Arizona State University and the WMO’s special expert on weather and climate extremes, said in a statement.
The Verkhoyansk meteorological station, located in eastern Siberia in the Republic of Sakha, has been recording daily temperatures since 1885. The previous record of 37.3 degrees C (99.1 degrees F) was observed on July 25, 1988.
The WMO is currently working with Russian authorities to confirm the 38 degrees C measurement, recorded on June 20, but said it had “given tentative acceptance of this observation as legitimate,” noting it was consistent with other regional data.
“We’ve seen satellite images this morning and it’s just one mass of red. It’s striking and worrying,” WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters at a briefing in Geneva, according to Reuters.
The Arctic is warming at nearly twice the global average. Annual surface temperatures from 2016 to 2019 have been the highest on record. And the volume of Arctic sea ice in September 2019 had declined more than 50 percent from the 1979-2019 average.