Nunavut warmed, Siberia burned and Greenland melted — the Arctic summer that was like no other

A forest fire burns outside of Delta Junction, Alaska on June 29, 2019. In June, fires in Alaska, Siberia, Canada and Greenland released 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide — equivalent to Sweden’s total annual fossil fuel emissions, according to a scientist with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

It has not been a good summer for the Arctic.

Perhaps more than anywhere on Earth, the Arctic has felt most acutely the effects of climate change — evidence of which is unfolding in real time as residents and wildlife contend with a mess not of their own making.

While Europeans baked under a few sweltering days in June and July, Arctic residents faced an altogether different paradigm.

A changing Arctic brings problems foreign to those in the south: The inability to travel, the struggle to secure nutritious food, the arrival of new species, the loss of others, and perhaps most damaging, the potential disappearance of one’s culture.

“The people in the North are the most affected from the impact of climate change,” said Mishak Allurut, a community leader in Arctic Bay, Nunavut. “Their whole livelihood revolves around the environment.

Here is a look at how the Arctic and some of its people fared over the past three months while being subjected to some of the hottest weather on record.

Mercury Rising

"The people in the North are the most affected from the impact of climate change," says Mishak Allurut, a community leader in Arctic Bay, Nunavut. "Their whole livelihood revolves around the environment."

Parts of the Arctic felt more like Ontario cottage country this summer as the world experienced its hottest June followed by scorching temperatures in July, making it the hottest month since record keeping began in 1880.

Multiple records were smashed in Alert, Nunavut, the northernmost permanent community on Earth. Temperatures hit a record 21 degrees on July 14, breaking the previous record of 20 degrees set in 1956.

“This is an example of what we’re seeing across the entire planet, which are a lot of records being broken, particularly in the maximum temperatures,” said Armel Castellan, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The heat refused to let up in Alert as the temperature hit 20.3 degrees on July 15, breaking the previous record of 15.7 degrees for that day set in 1971. The next day, July 16, reached 17.8 degrees to tie the record for that day set back in 2015.

August turned out to be the warmest August on record in Alert by more than one degree, with an average temperature of 4.3 degrees, according to weather watcher Patrick Duplessis, an atmospheric science PhD student at Dalhousie University.

“Beating a monthly average temperature record by a whole degree is quite impressive, especially in summer months, where variability is small,” Duplessis said.

To the south, in Nunavut’s capital Iqaluit, the temperature hit 22.7 degrees on June 28, setting a record for that month, while July 9 – Nunavut Day – was a balmy 23.4 degrees, breaking the previous record of 22.2 degrees set in 1969.

The story was much the same internationally. On July 26, Sweden recorded 34.8 degrees in the village of Markusvinsa, setting that country’s record for the highest temperature inside the Arctic Circle. The next day, the municipality of Saltdal, Norway, saw the mercury hit 34.6 degrees, also the highest temperature ever recorded inside the Arctic Circle in that country.

Alaska recorded its hottest month on record in July, with an average temperature of 14.5 degrees, beating the previous warmest month of July 2004.

Rick Thoman, a climate scientist at the Alaska Centre for Climate Assessment and Policy, said what’s happening in the Arctic “is a preview of things to come for those south of the Arctic. Temperature is on an escalator “going up,” he said. “With the combination of very warm oceans, low sea ice, we loaded the dice and then the atmosphere co-operated by giving us the third piece of the puzzle to push it up yet again.”  SOURCE

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