The UN weather agency warned that average temperatures in Siberia were 10°C above average last month, a spate of exceptional heat that has fanned devastating fires in the Arctic Circle and contributed to a rapid depletion in ice sea off Russia’s Arctic coast.


“The Arctic is heating more than twice as fast as the global average, impacting local populations and ecosystems and with global repercussions,” World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) secretary-general Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

He noted that Earth’s poles influence weather conditions far away, where hundreds of millions of people live.

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The WMO previously cited a reading of 38°C in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk on 20 June, which the agency has been seeking to verify as a possible record-high temperature in the Arctic Circle.

It comes as fires have swept through the region, with satellite imagery showing the breadth of the area surface.

The agency says the extended heat is linked to a large “blocking pressure system” and northward swing of the jet stream that has injected warm air into the region.

But the WMO also pointed to a recent study by top climate scientists who found that such a rise in heat would have been nearly impossible without human-caused climate change.


The WMO said information collected by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre and the US National Ice Centre showed the Siberian heatwave had “accelerated the ice retreat along the Arctic Russian coast, in particular since late June, leading to very low sea ice extent in the Laptev and Barents Seas.”

Reader Q&A: Could climate change turn Earth into Venus?

Asked by: Andrew Kemp, Cheshire

Venus’s atmosphere is 96 per cent carbon dioxide, driving a powerful greenhouse effect that creates surface temperatures of up to 450°C. Earth’s atmosphere, on the other hand, currently contains 0.04 per cent carbon dioxide, with trace amounts of other greenhouse gases.

While greenhouse gas concentrations have been rising as we burn fossil fuels, they are still far from Venus’s levels. Even if we were to burn all available fossil fuels, the likely impact on our planet’s temperature would be a 10°C rise. This may seem modest by Venus’s standards, but it would be enough to cause a sea-level rise of more than 50 metres.

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Alexander McNamaraOnline Editor, BBC Science Focus

Alexander is the former Online Editor at BBC Science Focus.