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Temperatures Above The Arctic Circle Hit Record High


Siberia is baking. In some towns, the weather is 30 degrees above normal. NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports.

REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: Over the weekend, a town in northeastern Siberia reported a high temperature of 100.4 degrees. If that measurement is verified, it will be the highest temperature ever recorded above the Arctic Circle. But Siberia's current heat wave started months ago. The first five months of 2020 were by far the hottest ever recorded in Russia. Bathsheba Demuth is a historian at Brown University who studies Arctic Russia. Back in the spring, she started getting texts and photos from people she knew there.

BATHSHEBA DEMUTH: In April and May, people started talking about, where did spring even go? Because it seemed like it jumped straight from winter into days where people were out in lakes in their bathing suits.

HERSHER: Warm weather is nice for swimming, but it's bad news for pretty much everything else. Everything in the Arctic is built on permafrost that's getting squishy as it melts. In early June, 20,000 tons of diesel spilled in northern Siberia when storage tanks collapsed, likely because of melting. Plus, the hot weather makes wildfires more likely to ignite and harder to put out. And there are tons of mosquitoes and ticks enjoying the warm weather.

DEMUTH: Some of the videos that I've seen on Instagram of the hordes of mosquitoes are actually the stuff of nightmares.

HERSHER: Add to that, a lot of Siberians rely on ice and snow to hunt animals like walruses or raise herds of reindeer.

DEMUTH: Reindeer are animals that are adapted to the Ice Age. They like it cold.

HERSHER: In short, the hot weather threatens people's immediate livelihoods. And it's a hint of the future. Robert Rohde is the lead scientist for the climate research group Berkeley Earth.

ROBERT ROHDE: What we're really talking about is an alarm going off that something has changed.

HERSHER: He says record-breaking moments like this one should make us pay attention to the larger trend. The entire earth is heating up rapidly.

ROHDE: Climate change is going to continue even though there are a lot of distractions in the world right now.

HERSHER: At the current rate, he says, this will be a normal Siberian summer in the year 2100.

Rebecca Hersher, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.