Siberia´s heatwave `effectively impossible´ without climate change

Siberian heatwave that saw temperatures soar to 100F would have been ‘effectively impossible’ without human-induced climate change

  • On June 20, Verkhoyansk weather station recorded all-time high of 38°C (100°F)
  • Month of June was more than 5°C (9°F) above the historical average for Siberia 
  • Academics studied the heatwave to see if it was caused by climate change 
  • Preliminary findings reveal the heatwave was made 600 times more likely due to human-caused climate change 

Siberia’s recent heatwave was made 600 times more likely due to human-induced climate change, a study has found.  

Months of unprecedented warm weather in the normally frigid region of Russia culminated in the hottest June on record, and resulted in numerous wildfires. 

The average temperature increase for the whole region over the entire month was in excess of 5°C (9°F). 

On June 20, Siberia recorded an all-time high temperature of 38°C (100°F) at the Verkhoyansk monitoring station.   

Preliminary findings from the study reveal the heatwave would have been ‘effectively impossible’ without climate change.

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A satellite image showing a record-breaking temperature of 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) registered in the Arctic town of Verkhoyansk on June 19

Average temperatures in Arctic Siberia were more than 5°C above normal for June, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service. A new study has found Siberia’s recent heatwave was made 600 times more likely due to human-caused climate change

A rapid analysis of the heatwave has produced the strongest evidence yet from the  World Weather Attribution in attributing extreme events to climate change.  

The sweltering conditions have been catastrophic, leading to a surge in wildfires which are pumping millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further amplifying the effect of global warming. 

It is also melting permafrost – permanently frozen ground – which caused the collapse of a fuel tank and huge oil spill in May.

An international team of researchers ran a series of complex computer models comparing the current atmospheric warming with a theoretical model based on a fictitious world where humans did not burn fossil fuels and set the world ablaze. 

They examined average temperatures through the six months from January to June over a large region spanning most of Siberia, and also looked at daily maximum temperatures in June in the town of Verkhoyansk.

It revealed that this sort of prolonged heat in Siberia would only be expected to naturally occur once every 80,000 years. 

Arctic Siberia saw exceptionally high temperatures last month as it sweltered in a heatwave which made it the region’s hottest June on record.

When compared to the normal temperature of Siberia, calculated from the average of every June from 1950 to 2018, this year was up to 10°C higher.  

The average temperature increase, for the whole region over the entire month, was in excess of 5°C. 

Siberia is a frigid region, normally averaging just 16°C on a June day, but on June 20, it recorded an all-time high temperature of 38°C.  

The study was done in two weeks and has not yet been put through the microscope of peer-review and published in a major scientific journal. 

World Weather Attribution’s past work has found some weather extremes were not triggered by climate change.

But 2020’s Siberian heatwave stood out, said attribution team co-lead Friederike Otto, acting director of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute. 

‘Definitely from everything we have done it’s the strongest signal that we have seen,’ Otto said. 

The high temperatures in the Arctic are helping drive 2020 to being one of the hottest years on record. 

Lead author Andrew Ciavarella, from the Met Office, said:  ‘Heatwaves and high temperatures occur naturally and human influence has a hand in changing the odds of just how warm they will be when they come along, and also how frequently they come along.

‘We found the regional temperatures experienced over the six months to June 2020 have been made at least 600 times more likely to occur as a result of human-induced climate change and would have been effectively impossible without human influences.’

He said the probability of the mercury hitting the record 38°C (100F) in Verkhoyansk, has also ‘likely increased dramatically’ because of global warming.

However the researchers are less confident of the results for this individual event as they are for the overall trend. 

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