A small town in Russia has reached its highest ever recorded temperature
As temperatures continue to rise and extreme weather events occur more frequently, the effects of climate change have even reached a small Russian town in the Arctic Circle. Verkhoyansk, in Russia’s Sakha Republic, has just recorded a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit—over 32 degrees higher than the average in June—and a new record for the region.
This number is particularly astounding in a region notorious for its bitter winters (its average temperature in January is -44 degrees Fahrenheit).
The record-setting day comes mere weeks after hotter weather caused a major environmental disaster in Russia. A support strut on an oil container belonging to the Russian natural oil company NorNickel collapsed due in part to melting permafrost, releasing 200,000 tons of crude oil into nearby waterways.
But why are the poles experiencing this rapid temperature increase, and what effect does this warming have?
Global temperature increase is compounded in the polar regions by a natural phenomenon called polar warming amplification, according to a 2013 study published by the American Meteorological Society. Due to atmospheric and oceanic systems that transport heat from the tropics towards the poles: “[T]he poles are expected to warm 2-3 times faster than the global-mean surface temperature,” the study says.
The heating in this region is part of a vicious feedback loop. As temperatures rise, more ice in regions like northern Russia melts. Ice is a reflective surface, meaning that instead of absorbing the sun’s heat, the ice reflects it back. When ice melts, the sunlight is absorbed by darker parts of the earth, causing more warming. As more ice melts, the warming effect is amplified, resulting in further melting.