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Arctic Circle heats up seeing ‘highest-ever’ recorded temperatures

Temperatures in the Arctic Circle are likely to have hit an all-time record, reaching a scorching 38 degrees Celsius in Verkhoyansk, a Siberian town. The record still needs to be verified, but it appears to have been 18°C higher than the average maximum daily temperature in June. BBC News reports hot summer weather is not uncommon in the Arctic Circle, but recent months have seen abnormally high temperatures. The Arctic is believed to be warming twice as fast as the global average. Verkhoyansk, home to about 1300 people, sits just inside the Arctic Circle, in remote Siberia. It has an extreme climate with temperatures plunging in January to an average maximum of -42°C and then surging in June to 20°C. However, a persistent heatwave this year in the Arctic Circle has worried meteorologists. Climate Change service reported that the average temperature was around 10°C above normal. BBC News reports earlier in June, parts of Siberia recorded 30°C, while in May, Khatanga in Russia, situated in the Arctic Circle at 72 degrees north, set a new May temperature record of 25.4°C. “Year-on-year temperature records are being broken around the world, but the Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth,” said Dr Dann Mitchell, associate professor in atmospheric science at the University of Bristol. “So, it is unsurprising to see records being broken in this region. We will see more of this in the near future.” Heatwaves in the Arctic are not unusual. Weather patterns around the world can align in such a way that hot air is transported quite far northward and colder air from the poles southward. Over the last few months a large area of high pressure in eastern Russia has been dominant. This has led to southerly winds bringing warmer air from near the tropics, leading to higher than average temperatures. However, the persistence of this weather pattern has led to a longevity and scale of heat that is worrying. BBC News reports this is consistent with what climatologists believe will happen in the Arctic with climate change. Most scientists agree that over the past 30 years, the Arctic has warmed at a rate of twice the global average. The graphic below shows that across the globe, through the period 1960-2019, average air temperature has generally increased by around 1.0°C. However, heading closer to the North Pole, latitude 90°, the reds become darker. This shows how the temperature has increased here more than anywhere else, by around 4.0°C. Warming in the Arctic is leading to the thawing of once permanently frozen permafrost below ground. This is alarming scientists because as permafrost thaws, carbon dioxide and methane previously locked up below ground is released. These greenhouse gases can cause further warming, and further thawing of the permafrost, in a vicious cycle known as positive feedback. The higher temperatures also cause land ice in the Arctic to melt at a faster rate, leading to greater run-off into the ocean where it contributes to sea-level rise. There is also an element of positive feedback here, says BBC Weather, because the loss of highly reflective white ice means that the ground and sea absorb more heat. This leads to more warming.