Arctic Siberia's record high temperatures a 'warning cry', EU warns

Reuters

Temperatures in Arctic Siberia soared to a record average for June amid a heat wave that is stoking some of the worst wildfires the region has ever known, European Union (EU) data showed on Tuesday.

Global temperatures last month were on par with a 2019 record, and "exceptional warmth" was recorded over Arctic Siberia, the EU's earth observation programme Copernicus said, part of a trend scientists are calling a "warning cry".

Average temperatures in the region were more than five degrees Celsius (about 9°F) above normal and more than a degree higher than the two previous warmest Junes, in 2018 and 2019, the data showed.

The World Meteorological Organization is also seeking to confirm reports of a temperature reading of more than 100°F (38°C) in Siberia, which would be the highest temperature recorded north of the Arctic Circle.

Smoke rises from wildfires near Berezovka River in the Russian republic of Altai, western Siberia, in this June 23, 2020 - Maxar Technologies via REUTERS

"What is worrisome is that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world," said Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The exceptional heat has sapped moisture from the earth across the region's vast boreal forests and tundra, fanning wildfires that have intensified since mid-June.

The Russian forestry agency said that, as of July 6, there were 246 forest fires covering 140,073 hectares and an emergency situation has been declared in seven regions. Russian state TV footage this week showed planes dumping water near huge columns of white smoke.

Copernicus says the fires have surpassed the record number of blazes seen in the region in the same month of last year.

"Higher temperatures and drier surface conditions are providing ideal conditions for these fires to burn and to persist for so long over such a large area," said Mark Parrington, senior scientist at Copernicus.

Wildfire carbon dioxide emissions from the region last month were an estimated 59 megatonnes, compared with 53 megatonnes last year, the EU said. 

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