Rising temperatures contributed to runaway wildfires in the Arctic in 2019 by NASA on Grist

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

The World Meteorological Organization is working to verify a possible record high temperature for the Arctic set amid a heatwave and wildfires in Siberia. The Russian town Verkhoyansk recorded a high of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit last Saturday. Although some areas in Siberia can see hot summers, Verkhoyansk’s summer high temperatures usually reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature reading, if verified, would be the highest temperature recorded in the Arctic, as well as the northernmost 100-degree reading.

Officials said there are currently 72 active wildfires burning in Russia as of Monday, while 330 forest fires were put out in 49 regions of Russia in a single week. The Russian Federal Forestry Agency noted in a news release the main causes of the fires were “human and thunderstorm factors.” The “unusual extent” of the wildfires also ignited usually soggy peatlands, releasing more carbon that will likely exacerbate warming in the region. Satellite records have shown a “dramatic” increase in emissions from wildfires in the last two summers. The months of June 2019 and 2020 had higher total emissions than every month of June from 2003-2018.  

Warming in the Arctic is increasing at more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Because of increased accessibility due to recent ice melt in the Arctic, navies and commercial entities have shown more interest in the so-called “Northern Sea Route,” with Russia leading the way on development. Ultimately, this could lead to both military and commercial conflicts, opening up a shorter route for transport and fish migrating to colder waters in Russian territory.

Although U.S. Republicans currently show the most support ever for alternative energy, Americans are split by party affiliation on whether federal stimulus programs should “prioritize” clean energy business. While carbon emissions are projected to decline 8% this year due to coronavirus restrictions, companies and governments are beginning to take action to curb the effects of climate change. The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee is contemplating legislation that would reward farmers for carbon-reducing practices.

Australia’s Reserve Bank acknowledged the global GDP will decrease by a quarter by 2100 if “drastically more ambitious” international climate policies are not put in place. The European Union agreed Wednesday to not give financing to nuclear or natural gas projects through the Just Transition Fund, which aims to aid a shift from high-carbon industries. Today, the U.K.’s Committee on Climate Change published its progress report on cutting emissions, laying out an urgent plan for the UK to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Contrary to these efforts, Facebook allowed an exemption in its fact-checking policy for climate change deniers.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Siberia heat wave: why the Arctic is warming so much faster than the rest of the world – The Conversation – 6/25/2020
For the first time in recorded history, temperatures reached 38°C (101°F) in a remote Siberian town – 18°C warmer than the maximum daily average for June in this part of the world, and the all-time temperature record for the region. New records are being set every year, and not just for maximum temperatures, but for melting ice and wildfires too. That’s because air temperatures across the Arctic have been increasing at a rate that is about twice the global average.

Arctic Circle Town Sets New Record With Temperatures Above 100 Degrees – The National Interest – 6/25/2020
This year, much of Siberia has witnessed unseasonably high temperatures—18 degrees higher than normal in May—leading to extensive wildfires. Verkhoyansk is recognized by the Guinness World Records for having the most extreme temperature range—with a low of minus-90 degrees Fahrenheit and a previous high of 98.96 degrees Fahrenheit. Past studies have shown that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet through a process known as Arctic amplification.

Siberia is supposed to be cold—instead, it’s burning – Fast Company – 6/24/2020
Nearby, in other parts of the region, more than 680,000 acres of forest are burning. It could be the beginning of a summer of catastrophic Arctic fires—pumping more carbon into the atmosphere and adding to the problem of climate change that is driving the current heat wave. “Over the past few days, we’re already seeing very unusual fire activity at very high latitude,” says Thomas Smith, an environmental geography professor at the London School of Economics who is studying fires in the region.

Scientists Say Record Heat in Small Russian Arctic Town Cause for Concern – Newsmax – 6/24/2020
The Russian arctic town of Verkhoyansk on Saturday hit a record 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit amid a Siberian heatwave that has fueled large wildfires and alarmed scientists who say the spike in the weather is indicative of a much bigger global warming trend. The Siberian town of Verkhoyansk had never eclipsed 100 degrees. “What is clear is that the warming Arctic adds fuel to the warming of the whole planet,” Waleed Abdalati, a former NASA chief scientist who is now at the University of Colorado, told The Associated Press.

Summer just started and the Arctic already topped 100 degrees – Grist – 6/25/2020
Life in the small town of Verkhoyansk, Russia, has always been extreme. In the Siberian winter, temperatures can plummet to -90 degrees Fahrenheit — so cold that it’s dangerous to wear metal-framed glasses. In the summer, temperatures usually hover around a comfortable 69 degrees. But residents of the isolated village just north of the Arctic circle recently experienced something unprecedented even for them: Scorching summer heat of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Erin Thomas on Twitter, 6/24/2020: The increasing temperatures in #Siberia have been linked to prolonged wildfires & the thawing of the #permafrost — a huge problem because buildings & pipelines are built on them and thawing releases more heat-trapping gas, which increases #wildfires

John Murton on Twitter, 6/24/2020: This is dramatic but important reading: temperatures in Siberia now 10+ degrees higher than any previous record. Increasingly difficult to understand how @Facebook perceive climate change as a matter of opinion rather than scientific fact with serious impacts.

Parag Khanna on Twitter, 6/24/2020: I drove from London to Mongolia across #Russia during the #Siberia #heatwave of 2010 (w/ no air-con) and it was brutal. It also rattled global #food supplies and played a role in the Arab Spring as I explained in #Connectography. What about this time? #agriculture #geopolitics

Steve Milloy on Twitter, 6/25/2020: The highs in Siberia are forecast to be back in the more seasonable 70s next week. Will that be global warming, too?

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