Hottest May on record with Russian Arctic hardest hit

Heavy smoke over the eastern Siberian city of Chita, Russia on Aug. 1, 2019. Hundreds of Russian towns and cities were shrouded in heavy smoke from wildfires in Siberia and the Far East in 2019. There are questions about how this year’s above average temperatures will affect wildfire season in the North. (Yevgeny Yepachintsev/The Associated Press/The Canadian Press)
May 2020 was the hottest May on record, reported the Copernicus Climate Change Service on June 5.

Their data shows that globally, last month was 0.63 C warmer than the average May from 1981-2010.

Even in Europe, where May 2020 was generally colder than average, temperatures were still posted as high as 0.7 C above average for spring.

The month’s extreme temperatures were hardest felt in northern Russia.

Siberia, a region that spans eastern and central parts of the country, posted temperatures of 10 degrees above average, said a news release from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on Friday.

“Boreal spring was marked by highly anomalous temperatures over Siberia, which reached close to 10°C above the 1981-2010 average over the lower reaches of the Ob and Yenisei rivers in the north-west of the region,” the WMO said in a news release. “Here record-early break-up of river ice has been reported.”

Regions of Canada below average

The data showed some parts of Canada strayed from the trend, with central and eastern Canada showing below-average temperatures.

Some areas of Canada bucked the trend this May and were actually cooler than usual in the centre and East of the country. (Copernicus Climate Change Service)

“Relatively warm but less exceptional conditions extended around much of the Arctic, though the season was colder than average over northern Canada and around Svalbard,” Friday’s Copernicus Climate Change Service report said.

Arctic, Antarctic sea ice below average

The sea ice extent in the Arctic this May was also below average, at 8 per cent less than the May 1981-2010 average. That figure is the fifth lowest on record.

Again, the report said the data was the most dramatic in Russia, especially around the island of Novaya Zemlya sandwiched between the Barents and Kara Seas.

Like the Arctic, the Antarctic also experienced record highs in May. (Copernicus Climate Change Service)

In Antarctica, sea ice extent was six per cent below average.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Indigenous leaders in northwestern Canada declare climate emergency, CBC News

Finland: Finland behind on sustainable development goals, Yle News

Greenland: COVID-19 delay, early ice melt challenge international Arctic science mission, The Associated Press

Iceland: Ice-free Arctic summers likely by 2050, even with climate action: study, Radio Canada International

Norway: Norway to expand network of electric car chargers across Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Red alert for northern Siberia as heat shocks threaten tundra life, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: January temperatures about 10°C above normal in parts of northern Sweden, says weather service, Radio Sweden

United States: Temperatures nearing all-time records in Southcentral Alaska, Alaska Public Media

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

One thought on “Hottest May on record with Russian Arctic hardest hit

  • Tuesday, June 9, 2020 at 11:17

    Hottest May on record.

    The current global warming is certainly detrimental to both polar regions.
    Adaptability is certainly the watchword

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