A Weather Station Above the Arctic Circle Hit 94.6 Degrees Fahrenheit

Among the hottest month in recorded history, some records still be notable as completely jaw dropping. That is certainly true of a measurement made in the Arctic this July. According to data published in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) regular climate analysis, a weather station in Sweden north of the Arctic Circle recorded a spectacular 94.6 Fahrenheit (34.8 degrees Celsius) last month.

Illustration for article titled A Weather Station Above the Arctic Circle Hit 94.6 Degrees Fahrenheit

As a remote data point, it would be alarming. But joined with a host of other anomalies, from no sea ice in 125 miles around the Alaska to the unruly fires ravaging Siberia, it is an expletive point on the climate crisis. The steamy temperature was documented on July 26 in the small Swedish station of Markusvinsa, which is located on the southern edge of the Arctic Circle. Deke Arndt, a NOAA climate researcher, said on a call with journalists that the data was examined and quality controlled by the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute and that “they have declared that as highest temperature north of the Arctic Circle” for the country.

For comparison, the hottest temperature documented in New York City last month was 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). The heat wave that enclosed the Arctic spread a lot remoter than Markusvinsa, however. Alaska recorded its hottest month ever among exceptionally strange weather for the state. The heat has caused huge wildfire, and smoke from those fires enveloped Anchorage and Fairbanks, the former of which has had its smokiest summer in history, according to Alaska weather researcher Rick Thoman. Salmon dieoffs, the earliest walrus haul out ever documented, and emaciated animals have also been reported all over the state.

Through the same press call, Thoman stretched out on the causes why it’s been so peculiar in Alaska. The big one is the loss of sea ice six to eight weeks in advance, which has left a 125-mile ring of open water around the state. Oceans were previously warm going into the summer, but the dark exposed ocean water has absorbed even more heat compared to the usually reflective ice cover.

Thoman called it “remarkable warmth” and said it exceeded the oceanic heat wave dubbed The Blob that gripped the northeastern Pacific in 2015. The hot oceans have in turn warmed up the land. Amplified evaporation has therefore turned up the humidity, leading to some disturbingly warm nights in Alaska.

Just as the heat has not been limited to Markusvinsa, the fading sea ice isn’t just an Alaskan coast thing. The Arctic Ocean as a whole documented its lowest July sea ice extent ever, which could have in part helped fuel a strange lightning storm just a few hundred miles from the North Pole. Sea ice was an astounding 19.8% below average, plummeting well under the previous low set in July 2012. Sea ice stands may recall 2012 as the year sea ice hit a record minimum extent. While we are still six to eight weeks away from the yearly sea ice minimum, and things could change in the coming month or so, this year’s icepack is in definitely bad shape.

July’s Arctic heat is part of a bigger global trend driven by carbon pollution. The NOAA data published on Thursday also established that July was the hottest month ever documented on Earth, with temperature edging 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit (0.95 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average. Based on the heat in the first seven months of 2019, the world is nearly definite to have one of its five hottest years on record. Using data examined distinctly by Berkeley Earth, climate researcher Robert Rohde tweeted that there’s a 90% chance that 2019 will go down as the second hottest year on record, trailing only 2016.