UN evaluates reports of record Arctic heat in Siberia

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In this handout photo provided by Olga Burtseva, children play in the Krugloe lake outside Verkhoyansk, the Sakha Republic, about 4660 kilometers (2900 miles) northeast of Moscow, Russia, Sunday, June 21, 2020. A Siberian town that endures the world’s widest temperature range has recorded a new high amid a hear wave that is contributing to severe forest fires. Russia’s meteorological service said the thermometer hit 38 Celsius (100.4 F) on Saturday in Verkhoyansk, in the Sakha Republic about 4660 kilometers (2900 miles) northeast of Moscow. (Olga Burtseva via AP)

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. weather agency is investigating media reports suggesting a new record high temperature of over 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Arctic Circle amid a heatwave and prolonged wildfires in eastern Siberia.

The World Meteorological Organization said Tuesday that it’s looking to verify the temperature reading on Saturday in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk with Rosgidromet, the Russian federal service for hydro-meteorological and environmental monitoring.

The reports suggest yet another possible sign of global warming in the Arctic, which the agency said is among the fastest warming regions in the world and is heating at twice the global average.

“Apparently, this particularly region of eastern Siberia has very, very cold extremes in winter, but is also known for its extremes in summer, so temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius in July are not unusual,” World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman Clare Nullis said. “but obviously 38 degrees Celsius is exceptional.”

“We’ve seen satellite images this morning, and it’s just one mass of red — it’s striking and worrying,” she told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

The area has been hit by wildfires that have driven up temperatures.

“A WMO fast-response evaluation team has given tentative acceptance of this observation as a legitimate observation, which is consistent with current upper air observations at the time in Siberia,” WMO special rapporteur Randall Cerveny said in a statement.

“This will now be subject to a normal process for a detailed formal review by a panel of WMO atmospheric scientists,” added Cerveny, who is also a professor of geographical sciences at Arizona State University.

The World Meteorological Organization has not previously verified possible records for the “highest temperature recorded north of the Arctic Circle,” but is considering creating such a category given the “interest in this extreme observation,” the agency said.

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