100°!: Record-Shattering Temperatures Blanket Arctic Circle as Climate Experts Sound the Alarm Again

(EnviroNews World News) — Verkhoyansk, Sakha Republic, Russia — Record shattering temperatures blanketed the Arctic Circle, as the tiny town of Verkhoyansk experienced a high of 100.4 degrees (38 Celsius) on Saturday, June 20, 2020, The Washington Post reported. The unverified temperature is not an anomaly though. A day later, the Siberian dwelling, which lies 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle border, recorded a high of 95.3 degrees (35.2 Celsius). Scientists expect the heat wave to continue through the end of June.

Verkhoyansk sits at latitude 67.55 degrees north, 1300 miles farther north than Fairbanks, AK, and has an average June temperature of 68 degrees (20 Celsius). In 1988, Verkhoyansk experienced a week of temperatures above 89 degrees (32 Celsius) including the previous record for the area of 99 degrees (37.3 Celsius) set on July 25. The previous high-temperature record above the Arctic Circle was 100 degrees (37.8 Celsius) at Fort Yukon, Alaska in 1915.

“This scares me, I have to say,” tweeted environmentalist and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. “Arctic systems are so crucial — as they shift, the feedback loops are potentially enormous,” he explained in a second tweet.

It’s not just this small town that’s experiencing blistering temperatures. All of Siberia is feeling the heat with the mercury rising higher and higher. Chersky, 700 miles northeast of Verkhoyansk, reached a record of 86 degrees (30 Celsius) while western Siberia experienced its warmest May on the books, according to Copernicus Special Reports.

According to NASA, there is twice as much carbon in permafrost areas as there is in the air: 1.5 trillion tons. When permafrost thaws, it releases trapped methane and carbon dioxide into the air. These greenhouse gases trap sunlight which warms the earth and causes more of the permafrost to thaw.

The unexpected rise in temperature has resulted in the expected melting of ice and an early wildfire season. The spike also resulted in a large oil spill on May 29 in Norilsk, Russia when the thawing of permafrost at a power plant caused its fuel reservoir tank to collapse. The result: 21,000 tons of diesel were spilled onto the tundra, according to Severe Weather Europe. An estimated 6,000 tons were spilled on land while 15,000 tons ended up in the Ambarnaya and Daldykan Rivers. The fuel, which is more than half what the Exxon Valdez dumped into Prince William Sound in 1989, will take more than a year and cost about $1.5 billion to clean up. The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) told The New York Times, the event marks one of the worst oil spills in modern Russian history.

Climate-Caused Oil Spill — Norilsk, Russia — Ambarnaya River

Another unexpected consequence of rapidly thawing permafrost is the spontaneous formation of craters on the Siberian tundra. First discovered in 2014, the craters are attributed to an underground buildup of methane that explodes in a fiery event, leaving behind a massive hole in the ground. The holes eventually fill up with water and become lakes.

Methane Blow-Crater — Yamal Peninsula, Siberia — Photo: Itar-Tass/Zuma

“I didn’t expect it then, and I still don’t expect it now. It’s not something that any Arctic scientists talk about for this to happen on land — to have land explode because of a buildup of methane below the ground. It still surprises me now, “climate scientist Sue Natali of Woods Hole Research Center told WGBH.

And it’s not only the Arctic that’s breaking climate records; it’s the Antarctic too. The current heat wave comes on the heels of the largest 24-hour ice-melt in history, recorded in the Antarctic on Christmas Eve 2019. Data of the event, captured by the University of Liege, showed that an area the size of Denmark was affected by higher temperatures and a weaker polar vortex. It was the worst of the season and had climatologists calling a “planetary emergency,” according to an EnviroNews World News report.

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