‘Alarm bells’ as UN confirms new record temperature for the Arctic

15 Dec 2021

Image: © Kirill Gorlov/Stock.adobe.com

The WMO said the new Arctic record is one in a series that ‘sound the alarm bells’ about the changing climate in extreme regions of the world.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has confirmed that temperatures taken last year in both Arctic and Antarctic regions were the highest recorded to date.

The UN agency said in a statement yesterday (14 December) that the Arctic temperature recorded on 20 June last year in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk was “more befitting the Mediterranean” at 38 degrees Celsius.

Verkhoyansk is about 115km north of the Arctic Circle and the meteorological station has been observing temperatures since 1885.

The WMO added that the Arctic is among the fastest-warming regions in the world and is heating more than twice the global average.

It said average temperatures over Arctic Siberia were as high as 10 degrees Celsius above normal for much of summer last year, which caused devastating fires, sea ice loss and played a major role in 2020 being one of the three warmest years on record.

“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 Prof Petteri Taalas.

Another temperature record was set on 6 February 2020 when a reading of 18.3 degrees Celsius on the Antarctic continent was taken by Esperanza Base, an Argentine research station.

Taalas said the WMO is currently working on verifying other record temperatures recorded around the world and that its archive “has never had so many ongoing investigations”.

This includes verifying a reading of 54.4 degrees Celsius recorded in both 2020 and 2021 in the world’s hottest place, Death Valley in California, and a reading of 48.8 degrees Celsius taken in Sicily over summer this year.

WMO rapporteur Prof Randall Cerveny said the Arctic investigation highlights rising temperatures in a “climatically important region of the world” and shows the importance of long-term observations of temperature changes to develop usable benchmarks.

“Through continued monitoring and assessment of temperature extremes we can remain knowledgeable about the changes occurring in this critical region of the world, the polar Arctic,” Cerveny added.

The WMO noted that these readings are only snapshots of our current climate and “it is possible, indeed likely, that greater extremes will occur in the Arctic region in the future”.

In September, scientists said the ozone hole above the southern hemisphere was larger than 75pc of previous years’ holes at that stage of the season since 1979.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic