May 23rd, 2020 by Johnna Crider
Siberia is experiencing record high temperatures that are nearly 40 degrees Fahrenheit above average. To put things in perspective, The Washington Post writes that some areas are hotter than Washington right now. Snow cover is disappearing, sea ice is melting, and in 2020 fashion, we now have “zombie blazes” — really intense fires that are raging.
Quite remarkable temperatures in western Siberia today.
For example 26.4°C as north as Arctic Circle (66.6°N) and 30.1°C at 62.5°N. pic.twitter.com/nH5TDipUMk
— Mika Rantanen (@mikarantane) May 21, 2020
Just to show you how hot it’s been in some areas of Siberia, several stations in North Central Siberia recorded temperatures that climbed well into the 80s! That is south Louisiana temperatures. Khantanga, a town that is located north of the Arctic Circle, recorded 78 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday. The normal temperature is 32 degrees.
Regarding those zombie fires, Russian officials are expecting that the summer will be the hottest the region has ever seen. They think there will be an unusually destructive fire season — last year, the fires burned 7 million acres of Siberian forests. So far this year, 1.5 million acres have burned.
Zack Labe, a graduate student at the University of California at Irvine who researches Arctic climate change, noted that there have been trends of fires showing up shortly after snow cover melts. These hot spots are showing up on satellite images and are leaving scientists wondering as to whether or not these “zombie fires” from last summer never really stopped burning. Perhaps they survived the winter by burning the layers of vegetation beneath the snow. 😬
Regarding the sea ice melting in the Kara Sea, Labe noted that it recently reached a record low for the date. The ice cover is thinner than average along the entire coastline of northern Siberia, and he said that the warmth is likely conditioning the ice to melt further by melting snow cover lying on top of the ice.
One theory is that the polar vortex is creating the record warmth. Siberia had a mild winter, while on the opposite side of the globe, Antarctica had a really warm summer and its own heatwave back in February. Whether we want to admit it or not, our poles are having record heat and major changes keep coming. That disrupts one ecosystem after another.