The temperature of a Siberian town has science reaching for superlatives, with the United Nations considering a brand new category in order to measure it.
The United Nations are scrambling to verify reports of a new arctic record temperature of 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in a Siberian town over the weekend.
The Russian town of Verkoyansk measured the suspected record temperature on Saturday during a prolonged heatwave. The heatwave has also brought with it a hike in wildfires the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation said.
Eastern Siberia is typically known for its extreme temperatures both in the summer and winter months, on both sides of the spectrum, WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters in Geneva. Not like this, however.
“Temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius in July are not unusual, but obviously 38 degrees Celsius is exceptional,” she said.
Nullis added that the situation was “striking and worrying”, describing satellite images of the area as “just a mass of red.”
A WMO fast-response evaluation team has recognised the Verkoyansk reading as “a legitimate observation,” but Nullis has stressed that a full-scale verification will require a lengthy process.
The Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorological and Environmental Monitoring (Roshydromet) said temperatures above 31 degrees Celsius had been recorded at the Verkhoyansk station since June 18, peaking at 38 C on June 20.
“This is the highest temperature ever measured at this station since measurements began,” Marina Makarova of Roshydromet said Monday.
If confirmed, the UN agency will refer the details to its Weather and Climate Extremes Archive to verify that the observation indeed is the record. Nullis pointed out that the archive, likened to a Guinness book of record for weather and climatic extremes, has not had a category for heat north of the Arctic Circle until now.
“We are now actively considering setting up this new category,” she added.
Not surprisingly, Nullis said the soaring temperatures in the Arctic were indicative of continuing global warming. “Climate change isn’t taking a break because of COVID,” she said. “Temperatures are carrying on rising. We are seeing continuing extreme weather events.”
The Arctic is one of the fastest-warming regions in the world, heating at twice the global average rate. Siberia, home to much of Earth’s permafrost, has recently witnessed exceptional heat.
Temperatures in the region soared 10 degrees Celsius above the average last month, no small contributor to the globe’s hottest May on record, according to the European Union’s Copernicus climate monitoring network.