THE Arctic is thought to have recorded its highest temperature ever of 38C (100.4F) – making it hotter than Cancun, Mexico.
The mercury in Verkhoyansk, about 3,000 miles east of Moscow, reached the unprecedented level on June 20 according to Pogoda i Klimat – a website that compiles Russian meteorological data.
Scientists had predicted that the Arctic wouldn’t reach those temperatures until 2100 – meaning it had warmed 80 years faster than they had expected.
The temperature was 18 degrees higher than normal and if it’s confirmed by World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), it will be the warmest temperature recorded in the Arctic Circle.
If it’s confirmed, the temperature of 100.4F recorded in Verkhoyansk on June 20 will be a record high in the Arctic Circle – surpassing the current high of 100F which was recorded at Fort Yukon, Alaska in 1915.
Verkhoyansk currently holds the Guinness World Record for the greatest temperature range on earth – fluctuating from minus 68C to a high of 37.3C.
On the same day, Cancun, Mexico experienced a high of 31C – potentially seven degrees lower than in the Arctic Circle.
The heatwave is set to continue as temperatures in the Siberian town are expected to reach highs of 35C this week.
Verkhoyansk is usually one of the coldest places on Earth as the area reached nearly 60 degrees below Fahrenheit in November.
This unprecedented heat isn’t an “isolated occurrence” as Russia recently experienced its warmest winter in 130 years where temperatures were 6-8C hotter than normal.
Scientists have also recorded unusually hot weather in the Arctic, with a heatwave occurring relatively early in the year.
Earlier this month, Nizhnyaya Pesha, about 1,300km from Moscow, was hotter than Benidorm as temperatures soared to 30C.
Dr Gareth Marshall, senior climatologist at the British Antarctic Survey, said such a high temperature in June shows how quickly the Arctic environment is changing because of global warming.
He warned such high temperatures lower the moisture content of soils, making the ground more vulnerable to wildfires.
Dr Marshall added warmer weather causes carbon sinks in Arctic wetlands, forests and soil to break down and release emissions – further accelerating climate change.
In April, many parts of Asia – including Siberia – experienced record heat, which led to wildfires.
On April 27, a satellite system operated by NASA captured an image of red flames and smoke blowing through at least nine regions near Kemerovo and Novosibirsk in Siberia.
Anton Beneslavskiy, a forest fire and climate emergency expert, told Mongabay News: “This year’s fire season has started extremely early, and fires became intensive from the very beginning.
“That means a possible ‘long fire summer’ with a lot of forest destruction.”
Last year, fires swept through 15 million hectares (37 million acres) of forest in Siberia, although Greenpeace International believe official numbers were underestimated.
In the Arctic as a whole, average temperatures have risen by more than two degrees Celsius since the mid-19th century, twice the global average, The Journal reports.
A warming Arctic has accelerated the melting of Greenland’s kilometres-thick ice sheet, resulting in a net loss of 600 billion tonnes of ice mass for the year – accounting for about 40 per cent of total sea level rise in 2019.
In April, the UN’s WMO confirmed the past five years have been the hottest on record globally.
This trend is likely to continue because of record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.