The mercury climbed to 38⁰C (100.4F) in Verkhoyansk, Siberia in June 2020 creating the new record of highest temperature in the arctic region and beating Fort Yukon, Alaska, which recorded 37.8⁰C in June 1915. The forecast for the coming weeks was also a whopping 10⁰C higher than last year. This region is also known for experiencing the coldest temperatures, reaching as low as minus 60⁰C during winters.
Concerned scientists claim that the Arctic is heating with double the speed of global average. “Such heat-waves aren't necessarily new to Siberia, but that climate change is increasing their severity and length,” says Sergei Semyonov of the Yu. A. Izrael Institute of Global Climate and Ecology in Moscow.
The heat waves are occurring due to a ‘heat dome’ effect in the Arctic region. This phenomenon happens when the Air is pushed and compressed, creating a very high mass of air into one location. This heavy air prevents clouds from forming, keeping the weather sunny, and pushes warm temperatures down to the surface which creates a virtual dome in which heat is trapped for a long duration.
This has led to devastating consequences for the environment of the arctic region. The forest areas of Sakha Republic, Russian Federation are witnessing rampant Wildfires. In Siberia, a major diesel oil spill incident happened due to the melting of Permafrost and caused contamination in the Ambarnaya River.
Permafrost serves as a foundation for almost the entire Northern Hemisphere’s landmass and is also responsible for trapping twice the amount of carbon found in the atmosphere. This is a cause of concern, not only for the Arctic, but for the entire globe as it would amount to release of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Global warming is further fuelling the increase in temperatures of the frigid regions. May 2020 was reportedly the warmest month, according to the climate report of Copernicus Climate Change Service. As a result, snow in these areas melted earlier than it was supposed to. In 2012 as well, around 97% of the ice sheets in Greenland turned to slush due to extensive warming and in 2016, the warm climate in Norway resulted in rainfall instead of snowfall.
From these observations, it would be fitting to state that our planet is undergoing ‘Polar Amplification’, meaning, quicker warming of the poles. Snow cover helps in reflecting the sunlight back in the atmosphere. However, with the gradual warming of Earth, the amount of snow is declining and more heat is being captured instead of being reflected. Melting of snow and icy bodies contributes to sea level rise, increasing the probability of floods in low lying coastal areas.
These events are indicative of the degrading health of our planet which to a large extent are caused by our reckless actions. If we persist with business as usual, the survival of the human race may be as endangered as that of the Siberian tigers.