New Delhi: The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has recognised a new record Arctic temperature — 38 degrees Celsius — saying it is “more befitting the Mediterranean” and a worrying indicator of climate change.
The United Nations body recorded the temperature at the Russian town of Verkhoyansk on 20 June 2020 “during an exceptional and prolonged Siberian heatwave”. Verkhoyansk is about 115 km north of the Arctic Circle and the WMO has recorded temperatures there since 1885.
In a statement Tuesday, almost a year and a half after recording the temperature, the WMO recognised the new record and said average temperatures across Arctic Siberia reached as high as 10 degrees Celsius above normal for much of summer last year, “fuelling devastating fires, driving massive sea ice loss and playing a major role in 2020 being one of the three warmest years on record”.
“This new Arctic record is one of a series of observations reported to the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes that sound the alarm bells about our changing climate,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
Last year, the WMO had also recorded the highest temperature in the Antarctic region at 18.3 degrees Celsius on 6 February 2020.
Taalas added that the WMO was investigating and verifying records of high temperatures from other regions as well — 54.4 degrees Celsius recorded in both 2020 and 2021 in Death Valley in California, and a new reported European temperature record of 48.8 degrees Celsius in Sicily, Italy, this summer.
“The WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes has never had so many ongoing simultaneous investigations,” he said.
New category for record temperatures
The Arctic “is heating more than twice the global average”, said the WMO statement, which is why it has added a new category to its international Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes, reporting record high temperatures on or north of the Arctic Circle, since 2007.
“Historical research established from the national records of Arctic countries (showed) that there were no known temperatures of 38 degrees Celsius or above at any Arctic locations,” said the WMO statement.
The Arctic could record higher temperatures in the future too, the WMO warned. “The record is clearly indicative of warming across Siberia,” said UK climatologist Dr Phil Jones, who was part of the committee that verified the record temperature.
The coldest temperature recorded on or north of the Arctic Circle is -69.6°C (-93.3°F) on 12 December 1991 at Klinck AWS, Greenland.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)
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