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Town in the Arctic Circle records temperature as hot as Florida

Verkhoyansk is located at 67.5 degrees north latitude, whereas the Arctic Circle begins at 66.5 degrees.

A thermometer shows 30 degrees in Verkhoyansk about 11pm on June 21.

A thermometer shows 30 degrees in Verkhoyansk about 11pm on June 21.Credit:AP

The town of about 1300 is located farther north than Fairbanks, Alaska, and is known for having an unusually wide temperature range. During the winter, Verkhoyansk is one of the coldest spots in the world, with temperatures frequently dipping well below minus 50 degrees.

Temperatures in Chersky, about 1127 km to the north-east of Verkhoyansk, reached 30 degrees in the past week, which is also unusual and caused by the large area of high pressure, or heat dome, that remains parked over it.

So far in 2020, Siberia has stood out for its above-extreme temperatures, which has accelerated the melting of snow and ice; contributed to permafrost melt, which led to a major oil spill; and got the Siberian wildfire season off to an unusually early and severe start.

The oil spill in Norilsk – above the Arctic Circle in north-central Russia – leaked at least 20,000 tonnes of diesel fuel into the nearby Ambarnaya River and is thought to be the worst spill in the Russian Arctic’s history.

While some questions remain about the accuracy of the Verkhoyansk temperature measurement, data from a Saturday weather balloon launch at that location supports the reading. Temperatures in the lower atmosphere, at about 1500 metres, also were unusually warm at 21 degrees, a sign of extreme heat at the surface.

Such a reading makes the record high “even more legitimate,” meteorologist Etienne Kapikian of Meteo France said on Twitter.

The World Meteorological Organisation, which verifies global temperature records, does not recognise the polar regions as a separate region for its extremes archive, so the new record may not go in the official history books, according to Randy Cerveny, a professor at Arizona State University who leads the WMO’s weather and climate extremes team.

During the spring, stubborn and sprawling areas of high pressure parked over the region resulted in parts of Siberia recording temperature departures from average that reached a staggering 10 degrees, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, which is an initiative of the European Union.

According to the report on recent Siberian temperatures, the persistence of the warm anomalies stands out from the historical record.

The remote village of Yar-Sale in Northern Siberia.

The remote village of Yar-Sale in Northern Siberia.

The recent trends are likely to continue, too, with computer models showing continued extreme warmth in northern Siberia in the next 10 days, spilling over into parts of Canada and Scandinavia.

By pairing the data with NASA’s surface records going back to 1880, Copernicus scientists found that this most recent six-month period is probably unprecedented since at least 1880.

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The Siberian Arctic, like the Arctic as a whole, is seeing rapidly increasing temperatures as a result of human-caused global warming. This is in part because of accelerating feedback loops between melting snow and ice and air and ground temperatures, as well as other features of the region’s climate.

Large wildfires are proliferating from Siberia to Alaska and Scandinavia; permafrost is melting, which releases even more planet-warming greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; and sea ice extent and thickness are plummeting, among other changes.

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