It Was 38 Degrees Celsius In The Arctic Circle This Weekend

Welcome to Verkhoyansk: home to both the coldest and hottest temperatures in the Arctic Circle. Stereo Lights/Shutterstock

It looks like a Siberian heatwave has smashed the record temperature in the Arctic Circle with the far-north town of Verkhoyansk reaching 38°C (100.4°F) on Saturday, June 20.

The temperature has been reported by numerous meteorologists, but has yet to be confirmed by official sources, the Washington Post reports. If verified, it will be the highest temperature on record in the Arctic, beating 1915's 37.7°C (100°F) recorded in Yukon, Alaska, and 18°C above the average maximum daily temperature for June. 

Either way, the baking hot temperatures seen over the weekend in Verkhoyansk are a testament to how the Arctic Circle is suffering some of the most acute effects of climate change. 

Verkhoyansk is found in the northeast corner of Russia in the Verkhoyansky District of the Sakha Republic. Now home to over 1,400 people, the town is in an area formerly nicknamed "Stalin's Death Ring" as it was one of the destinations where the Soviet regime sent political exiles, dissidents, and enemies. The area is also infamous due to its huge swings in temperature between the summer and winter months. Not only is it the location of the potentially hottest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic, but it also holds the extant record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere: an unimaginable −67.8 °C (−90.0 °F).

But it isn’t just the town of Verkhoyansk that’s feeling the burn. Much of Siberia, especially parts of its northwestern regions, has also experienced an unseasonably warm winter and spring

Surface air temperature anomalies notably higher than normal of western Siberia in May 2020

“It is undoubtedly an alarming sign, but not only May was unusually warm in this region. The whole of winter and spring had repeated periods of higher-than-average surface air temperatures” Freja Vamborg, Senior Scientist at the Copernicus Climate Change Service, commented in a statement.

“What needs to be considered is that although the planet as a whole is warming, this isn’t happening evenly. Western Siberia stands out as a region that shows more of a warming trend with higher variations in temperature,” Vamborg said. “This means that, to some extent, large temperature anomalies are not unexpected. However, what is unusual in this case is how long the warmer-than-average anomalies have persisted for.”

Martin Stendel, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute, tweeted that the temperatures recorded in northwestern Siberia last month would be a 1-in-100,000-year event if climate change was not a factor.

“What’s happening in Siberia this year is nothing short of remarkable. The kind of weather we expect by 2100, 80 years early," CBS News meteorologist and climate specialist Jeff Berardelli tweeted. “For perspective, Miami has only reached 100 degrees once on record."

Numerous research has shown that the Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth as a result of climate change. There are a number of reasons for this, but it’s most often associated with the loss of sea ice. As increasingly more ice melts, less sunlight is reflected and more is absorbed by the darker ocean surface. This creates a vicious cycle whereby the temperature increase, resulting in further sea ice loss, and so on. 

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