This summer, southerly stretches of the Arctic Circle were better suited to deckchairs and shorts than thermals and goggles. But don't start celebrating, this isn't even slightly positive news – the Arctic Circle's record-smashing temperatures are further confirmation that the world is in the grips of an ever-growing climate crisis.
Temperatures in Markusvinsa, a village in northern Sweden, on the southern edge of the Arctic Circle, hit 34.8°C (94.6°F) on July 26, 2019, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Global Climate Report for July 2019. Unsurprisingly, that sizzling afternoon was the nation's highest temperature ever recorded within the Arctic Circle.
The same report additionally highlights a temperature record of 35.6°C (96.1°F) in the Norwegian town of Saltdal, the highest temperature ever recorded north of the Arctic Circle in Norway. Along with other portions of planet Earth's northerly stretches, Alaska also braced for freakishly high temperatures last month, reaching 32°C (90°F) in Anchorage and shattering the city's previous record of 29.4 (85°F).
“The most notable warm temperature departures from average were present across parts of the Northern Hemisphere, specifically Alaska, northwestern Canada, and central Russia, where temperature departures from average were +2.0°C (+3.6°F) or higher,” the report reads.
Further examples of highly freakish weather in the Arctic this summer include flashes of lightning just 483 kilometers (300 miles) from the North Pole. While lightning has been known to strike in the Arctic Circle, it’s unprecedented to observe it this far north. Large portions of the Arctic were also on fire – literally on fire – as wildfires burned across huge swathes of Alaska, Alberta, Greenland, and Siberia.
The wider picture shows that July 2019 was officially the hottest month on record. It was preceded by the hottest June on record too. This year is especially worrying because the previous record-breaking month, July 2016, was during a strong El Niño phase, a climatic event that boosts temperatures in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns. Even without this big leg up, July 2019 managed to take the record.
The heatwaves that baked Western Europe and Scandinavia, which can partially explain this result from the Arctic Circle, have been widely attributed as a symptom of climate change. According to simulations by the World Weather Attribution network, the heatwaves of Europe this summer were made a hundred times more likely by human-induced climate change.