A small town in Siberia reached a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, which, if verified, would mark the hottest temperature ever recorded north of the Arctic Circle.
Temperatures have jumped in recent months to levels rarely seen in the Russian region, and it’s a sign of a broader trend of human-caused climate change that’s transforming weather patterns in the Arctic Circle.
The town of Verkhoyansk is one of the coldest towns on Earth — temperatures dropped to nearly 60 degrees below zero there this past November — and the average June high temperature is 68 degrees.
The 100.4 reading in Verkhoyansk, which sits farther north than Fairbanks, Alaska, would be the northernmost 100-degree reading ever observed.
The Washington Post reports that while there are questions about the accuracy of the record temperature, a Saturday weather balloon launch that found unusually high temperatures in the lower atmosphere supports the reading. And on Sunday, the town reached 95.3 degrees, according to the Post.
CBS News meteorologist and climate specialist Jeff Berardelli wrote on Saturday that 100-degree temperatures in or near the Arctic are “almost unheard of.”
Before Saturday, Siberia was already experiencing an extraordinary heat wave. Surface temperatures in Siberia were 18 degrees higher than average in May, making it the hottest May in the region since record-keeping began in 1979, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.
“It is undoubtedly an alarming sign, but not only May was unusually warm in this region,” said Freja Vamborg, a senior scientist at the Copernicus Climate Change Service, in a statement about the finding. “The whole of winter and spring had repeated periods of higher-than-average surface air temperatures.”
Climate scientist Martin Stendel said on Twitter that the temperatures recorded in northwestern Siberia last month would be a 1-in-100,000-year event — if not for climate change.
Berardelli said the average heat across Russia between January and May actually matches what current models project to be normal for the region in 2100, if carbon emissions continue.
“Due to heat trapping greenhouse gases that result from the burning of fossil fuels and feedback loops, the Arctic is warming at more than two times the average rate of the globe,” he explained in his analysis of the Verkhoyansk reading. “This phenomenon is known as Arctic Amplification, which is leading to the decline of sea ice, and in some cases snow cover, due to rapidly warming temperatures.”
He noted that if the climate continues to heat up, extreme heat waves will become more of the norm.