A new temperature record for the Arctic has been confirmed after a heatwave in Siberia saw a high of 38°C.
The alarming record came during a period when conditions averaged as much as 10°C above normal in the summer of 2020, when fires devastated the region.
The unseasonable temperatures drove massive sea loss and played a major role in 2020 being one of the three hottest years on record, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said.
The UN weather and climate body explained that the temperature was recorded at a meteorological observation station in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk on June 20, 2020.
As fears around the climate crisis continue to mount, the WMO said the temperature – more befitting the Mediterranean than the poles – again ‘sound alarm bells’.
The Arctic is seeing such extreme heating – at a rate more than twice the global average – that the WMO has created a new category in extreme weather monitoring for highest recorded temperature in the Arctic Circle.
To confirm the 38°C (100.4F) reading was a record for the region, a committee of experts determined the measurements from Verkhoyansk were consistent with surrounding stations and weather conditions, while the equipment was verified by national authorities.
Historical research from national records of Arctic countries including Canada also found there were no known temperatures of 38C or above at any location in the Arctic Circle, the WMO said.
WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said: ‘This new Arctic record is one of a series of observations reported to the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes that sound the alarm bells about our changing climate.’
It follows the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, which experts said made progress did not go far enough to avert catastrophic climate change.
That came after a ‘code red’ warning for humanity in August, when the UN warned in stark language that the devastating impacts of the environmental emergency were already being felt across the world.
The new record is one of a series of temperature readings in recent times that is worrying climate scientists.
Last year also saw a new temperature record for the Antarctic continent of 18.3°C at Argentina’s Esperanza station, while the a 54.4 °C reading in 2020 and 2021 in Death Valley, California, is currently being checked.
The organisation is also seeking to validate a reported record for Europe in Sicily, which saw Italian thermometers climb to 48.8°C this summer.
Professor Taalas added: ‘The WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes has never had so many ongoing simultaneous investigations.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.