A temperature of 38 C (100.4 F) in Verkhoyansk, Russia on June 20, 2020 has been recognized as a new Arctic temperature record as both hottest and coldest locations are warming, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Tuesday.
The temperature is more befitting the Mediterranean than the Arctic and was measured at a meteorological observing station during an exceptional and prolonged Siberian heatwave, said the WMO.
“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.
“In 2020, there was also a new temperature record (18.3 C) for the Antarctic continent.”
Average temperatures over Arctic Siberia reached as high as 10 C above normal for much of summer last year, fueling devastating fires, driving massive sea ice loss, and playing a significant role in 2020 as one of the three warmest years on record.
“WMO investigators are currently seeking to verify temperature readings of 54.4°C recorded in both 2020 and 2021 in the world’s hottest place, Death Valley in California, and to validate a new reported European temperature record of 48.8°C in the Italian island of Sicily this summer.
“The WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes has never had so many ongoing simultaneous investigations,” Taalas noted.
Among fastest-warming regions
The Arctic is among the fastest-warming regions globally and is heating more than twice the global average.
“The record is clearly indicative of warming across Siberia,” said UK climatologist and WMO expert Phil Jones.
The extreme temperature and ongoing climate change prompted a WMO panel of experts to add a new climate category, "the highest recorded temperature at the Arctic Circle," to its international Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes.
The archive includes the world’s highest and lowest temperatures, rainfall, heaviest hailstone, longest dry period, a maximum gust of wind, longest lightning flash, and weather-related mortalities.
Both polar regions are now represented with the creation of the new category.
Since 2007, the WMO has listed temperature extremes for the Antarctic region, corresponding to the land and ice shelf areas included in the Antarctic Treaty.
Verkhoyansk is about 115 kilometers (71 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, and the meteorological station has observed temperatures since 1885.
Russia's northeastern Yakutia region, the Eastern Siberia region, has an extreme, very harsh, and dry continental climate with exceedingly cold winters and hot summers, the world weather body added.