This week, for example, with blazes raging across Siberia, smoke smothered the skies all the way into portions of Alaska. In Svalbard, a Norwegian Arctic archipelago that has seen staggering warming rates in recent years, all-time temperature records were set, turning already receding glaciers into mush, covered by so much turquoise meltwater that it was visible from space.
The Svalbard archipelago is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth, with sea ice and glaciers on the decline. In Longyearbyen, Svalbard, the northernmost inhabited settlement, with more than 1,000 residents, temperatures soared to 71.1 degrees (21.7 Celsius) on July 25, setting a record high for this location. Longyearbyen had a string of four days that exceeded 68 degrees (20 Celsius), a feat seen only once before, in 1979.
The average high and low temperatures at this time of year in Longyearbyen are 49 (9.4 Celsius) and 41 degrees (5 Celsius)
The ice cap in Svalbard has the highest surface mass loss of any Arctic ice sheet so far this summer and hit a record for surface snow and ice melt on July 25, when temperatures spiked, said Xavier Fettweis, a scientist at the University of Liège, Belgium.
Arctic wildfire emissions set records
While Siberia’s extreme temperatures — including a likely all-time Arctic temperature record of 100.4 degrees (38 Celsius) recorded in June in Verkhoyansk, which lies above the Arctic Circle — has received the most attention, it’s the wildfires there that are having ripple effects far beyond this region. These fires have continued on their relentless pace since June.
On many days during July, a milky sheen of smoke thick enough to obscure the ground was visible on satellite imagery extending across an expanse that would cover much of the Lower 48 states. The most severe fires have been accompanied by towering smoke plumes, known as pyrocumulonimbus clouds, or pyroCbs.
Arctic wildfire carbon emissions, driven primarily by Siberian fires, hit a record level in July, according to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, a European Union science agency based in Reading, England. Such data stretches back 18 years, with an increase in Arctic fire emissions seen during that period.