The Siberian Heat Wave

World Atlas

The Arctic region is known for its extreme cold and freezing temperatures. Ironically it has been in the news for experiencing record breaking high temperatures.

Why is that? On the 20th of June, for the first time in history, Verkhoyansk, a small town in a region of Russia called Siberia, recorded temperatures just over 100°F (38°C). This is 18°C higher than the usual temperature during the summer months. This could be the hottest temperature ever recorded north of the Arctic Circle!

Air temperatures across the Arctic are rising at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the globe. There have been record highs in the Siberian region for months and Russia just had its warmest winter on record. This unusual heat was also felt in other regions that are in close proximity to Siberia such as Scandinavia and Northern Canada.

Scientists say there are several reasons for the warmer weather. It’s a sign of the broader effects of human-driven climate change that’s transforming weather patterns in the Arctic Circle. Some of it also comes down to our planet’s natural weather patterns. An area of high pressure in the Arctic air is making conditions right for the heat wave.

Meteorologists have suggested that despite the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions due to COVID 19, this drastic increase in temperatures could make 2020 the warmest year ever recorded.

Arctic temperatures have been rising faster than the global average. This map shows the average change in degrees Celsius from 1960 to 2019. NASA-GISS
Arctic temperatures have been rising faster than the global average. This map shows the average change in degrees Celsius from 1960 to 2019.

Why should we be worried?

The record warming in Siberia is a warning sign of things to come. The warmer and drier weather is already making it harder to control wildfires. Many fires are burning across Siberia, with some near the town of Verkhoyansk. Satellite images show smoke stretching for thousands of miles. Many of these fires are larger than those last year, and scientists worry that the wildfires will get worse as the burning summer continues.

Warmer temperatures are speeding up the thawing of the permafrost. Permafrost is the thick layer of frozen soil. This is a matter of much concern, as when permafrost melts, stores of CO2 and methane that were secured below the ground are let out into the atmosphere. This leads to a vicious circle wherein these pollutants cause temperatures to further increase making the permafrost melt even faster. The end result of this is that land ice in the Arctic begins to melt and causes a large amount of runoff into the ocean, in turn making sea levels rise. In fact, scientists have predicted that the Arctic will face summers without sea ice by 2050.

In addition to that, buildings and pipelines are built on the permafrost. This thawing has caused many issues in Siberia, including buckled roads, damaged homes, and even a major fuel spill wherein a fuel tank ruptured, leaking 20,000 tons of diesel fuel into the Ambarnaya river.

What is the solution?

The melting of land and sea ice along with a host of other problems caused by increasing temperatures in the Arctic can be reversed, however, it won’t be easy. By cooling the atmospheric conditions, the sea ice would remerge, although there are only a limited number of ways this situation can be salvaged. This includes: using trees or advanced technology to extract large amounts of CO2 from the aerosphere; spraying sunlight reflecting molecules into the stratosphere that would reflect some of the sunshine into space; or finally wait for a couple of decades for the earth to heal itself. Nevertheless, scientists are working their hardest to put these methods to the test to cool down the earth’s temperatures. We can lend a helping hand to save our earth by being aware of our carbon footprint and by making small changes to reduce it.

To calculate your carbon footprint click here

Did you know that Siberia is in the Guinness Book of World Records for its extreme temperatures?  It’s a place where the thermometer has swung 106 degrees Celsius (190 degrees Fahrenheit), from a low of minus 68 degrees Celsius (minus 90 Fahrenheit) to the current 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit)!

Zara Shroff is a 17 year old who loves writing and singing

 Zara Shroff is a 17 year old who loves writing and singing. She enjoys writing and is a student at the Ecole Mondiale World School.

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