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Climate Change Tracker: A heatwave in Siberia

Land temperatures in the Arctic Circle touch 45 degrees Celsius as global heating breaks new records

Siberia is reeling from a record heatwave and forest fires.
Siberia is reeling from a record heatwave and forest fires. (Getty Images)

The thing about climate change is that just when you think you have seen it all, along comes something even more shocking. One such bit of news is the ongoing heatwave in Siberia. According to data from Sentinel-3 satellites, land surface temperature at several locations in the Arctic Circle touched 45 degrees Celsius on 19 June. The Russian town of Verkhojansk, in the Arctic Circle, recorded an all-time high of 38 degrees Celsius. Its usual June average is about 20 degrees Celsius. Another Russian town, Khatanga, recorded 25 degrees Celsius on 22 May. The normal high for May in Khatanga is 0 degree Celsius.

Siberian heatwaves and large wildfires in the Arctic Circle have become common over the past two years. Both in 2018 and in 2019, Arctic wildfires burnt millions of hectares of tundra forests. Speaking to, Vyacheslav Kharuk, who heads a forest monitoring laboratory in Krasnoyarsk in Russia, said that on average, 6 million hectares of forests have caught fire between 2010-19 (as opposed to an average of 3 million hectares in 2000-09) and he warns that fires will grow four times larger in the near future.

And it isn’t just about high temperatures. According to a report, in Verkhojansk, for instance, winter temperatures regularly dip to -50 degrees Celsius. The report adds that if you take its lowest ever recorded temperature, -67.8 degrees Celsius, and its current record of 38, that’s a range of 105.8 degrees Celsius! Such a range in habitable human settlements is unheard of. Coupled with record low levels of Arctic sea ice, this spells trouble for Russia, and indeed the rest of the world. According to climate expert Jeff Berardelli, the Siberian heat anomalies were expected in 2100, not 2020. This means that global heating is happening faster than models suggest, and we are already running out of time.

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