Record 38C temperature recorded in Arctic Siberia

Siberian temperatures were up to 10 degrees above average in May, something that the “exceptionally early” break up of ice on Siberia’s rivers likely contributed to, the World Meteorological Organization says. (World Meteorological Organization)
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is working to confirm a record-breaking 38 degree C temperature reported in the Russian Arctic earlier this month.

The reading was reported on June  20 in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk, located above the Arctic Circle in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in the eastern Siberian region of Russia. 

“A WMO fast-response evaluation team has given tentative acceptance of this observation as a legitimate observation, which is consistent with current upper air observations at the time in Siberia,” said Randall Cerveny, WMO’s Special Rapporteur on Weather and Climate Extremes, in a news release on Tuesday. “This will now be subject to a normal process for a detailed formal review by a panel of WMO atmospheric scientists.

“It has been an unusually hot spring in Siberia, and the coinciding lack of underlying snow in the region combined with overall global temperature increases, undoubtedly helped play a critical role in causing this extreme temperature observation,” he said. 

A graph charting temperature anomalies in May 2020. (Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Services)
Previous record in 1988

The hottest previous air temperature recorded by the Verkhoyansk meteorological station was 37.3 degrees C on July 25, 1988, the WMO said. The station has provided air temperature measures since 1885, the news release said. 

To verify the June 2020 reading, the WMO will contact the Russian meteorological agency to get the actual data, confirm the type of equipment used, and get more information on quality checks, instrument calibration, monitoring techniques and data from corresponding stations.

“Fundamentally, these evaluations are very thorough and time-consuming projects,” Cerveny said.  “But the end result will be incredibly valuable information that will help climate scientists better understand climate, engineers and medical doctors better prepare for climate extremes and even the general public in achieving a better appreciation of climate change across this planet.” 

Wildfire concerns in Arctic Siberia
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)

On Thursday, the regional government in Yakutia announced emergency measures in some northern regions of the republic because of extreme heat.

“A large number of thermal points have been recorded in the northern and Arctic regions of the republic, where there is abnormal heat,” First Deputy Prime Minister of Yakutia Alexei Kolodeznikov said in a news release on Thursday. 

“Fire hazard class is growing and we must be prepared for the quick suppression of forest fires and the protection of settlements and economic facilities.”

Siberian temperatures were up to 10 degrees above average in May, something that the “exceptionally early” break up of ice on Siberia’s rivers likely  contributed to, the WMO said.

An area of western Siberia from 55°N to 75°N and from 60°E to 120°E. The Copernicus Climate Change Service measured May 2020 as the hottest on record. The green circle on the map shows the Tarko-Sale weather station which measured the largest anomaly, 8.8°C above average. (Copernicus Climate Change Service)

Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Services says the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world, but that the Siberian numbers still stand out, saying the intensity of wildfires has increased in recent days.

“Although the planet as a whole is warming, this isn’t happening evenly,” Copernicus said in a statement.

“For example, western Siberia stands out as a region that is warming faster than average and where variations in temperature from month to month and year to year tend to be large. This means that, to some extent, large temperature anomalies are not unexpected. However, what is unusual in this case is how long the warmer-than-average anomalies have persisted.”

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."

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.
Netiquette »

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *