Siberian town of Verkhoyansk sets new temperature record amid heatwave, forest fires

Global warming is having an effect on the entire ecosystem - river ice breaking, plants and trees blooming, and insects waking up earlier than usual.

A Siberian town with the world’s widest temperature range has recorded a new high amid a heatwave that is contributing to severe forest fires. If verified, this would be the hottest temperature recorded in Siberia as well as north of the Arctic Circle.

The temperature in Verkhoyansk hit 38 degrees Celsius on Saturday, according to Pogoda i Klimat, a website that compiles Russian meteorological data. This new record breaks the Arctic town's 32-year record it set on 25 July 1988, which was a sweltering 37.3 degrees Celsius set on 25 July 1988.

 Siberian town of Verkhoyansk sets new temperature record amid heatwave, forest fires

children play in the Krugloe lake outside Verkhoyansk, the Sakha Republic, about 4660 kilometres northeast of Moscow, Russia, Sunday, June 21, 2020. Image credit: Olga Burtseva via AP

Etienne Kapikian, a forecaster at Meteor France tweeted that if the temperatures detected at Verkhoyansk were correct then "it would not only be an absolute record at the station (37.3 ° C, 07/25/1988) but also the highest temperature ever observed north of the Arctic Circle."

The town is located above the Arctic Circle in the Sakha Republic, about 4,660 kilometres northeast of Moscow. with about 1,300 residents, the town is recognized by the Guinness World Records for the world's most extreme temperature range – it can go as low as minus-68 degrees C and as high as 37.2 C.

According to, the average high temperature in late June in Verkhoyansk is supposed to be around 20 degrees Celsius, and the recorded 38 degrees Celsius is an anomaly. Siberia is supposed to be one of the coldest places in the world and clocking temperature readings closer to a tropical city in summer is worrying.

Global warming heats Siberia

This event is not isolated with a sudden and freak increase in temperatures. Much of Siberia this year has seen unseasonably high temperatures and the hot climate had lead to sizable wildfires.

In the Sakha Republic, more than 2,750 km of forests are burning, according to Avialesokhrana, the government agency that monitors forest fires.

According to the Guardian, the temperatures have also been linked to a huge oil spill in Russia and a plague of tree-eating moths. Siberian silk moth's larvae eat away at conifer trees in the region's forests and swarms of these moths have been spotted in Siberia due to the warming climate. The moths strip away the tree's needles, making them more likely to catch on fire, resulting in forest fires.

"In all my long career as a specialist, I've never seen moths so huge and growing so quickly," said Vladimir Soldatov, a moth expert.

On 29 May, Diseal started leaking from a collapsed fuel tank owned by a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, the world's leading nickel and palladium producer. The Russian Arctic oil spill has polluted a big lake near Norilsk and traveled 20 km from its point of origin and risks spreading into the Arctic Ocean.

The pollution "will have a negative effect on the water resources, on the animals that drink that water, on the plants growing on the banks", said Vasily Yablokov of Greenpeace Russia told BBC.

Climate change is heating up Russia at a rate more than twice the global average, thawing what was once permanently frozen ground in the Arctic tundra, the Russian Environment Ministry announced last year.

The warmth is having an effect on the entire ecosystem – river ice breaking, plants and trees blooming, and insects waking up earlier than usual.

With input from The Associated Press

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