The Arctic summer of 2020 is a sign of violent fires in the Far North, smoke spreading more than 1,000 miles down, along with alarming new temperature records and melting ice. Although rapid Arctic climate change is not exactly news – the region is warming about three times as much as the rest of the world – the manifestations of this phenomenon are exacerbated in severity, scale and social consequences.
For example, this week, when rain erupted from Siberia, smoke spread across the sky to parts of Alaska. In Svalbard, the Norwegian Arctic archipelago, which has seen staggering warming in recent years, temperature records have been set for all time, turning the already retreating glaciers into a slurry covered with so much turquoise meltwater that it could be seen from space.
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The Svalbard Archipelago is one of the fastest warming places on Earth, with sea ice and declining glaciers. In Longyearbyen, Svalbard, the northernmost town with more than 1,000 inhabitants, the temperature rose to 71.1 degrees (21.7 degrees Celsius) on July 25, setting a record level for the place. Longyearbyen had four days in excess of 68 degrees (20 degrees Celsius), a feat seen only once before, in 1979.
In the same place, the low temperature during the night could not fall below 62.2 degrees (16.8 Celsius) on the 25th, setting a record for the warmest low temperature.
The average high and low temperatures at this time of year in Longyearbyen are 49 (9.4 Celsius) and 41 degrees (5 Celsius)
The ice cap on Svalbard has the highest surface mass loss of any Arctic ice sheet this summer and reached a record for surface snow and ice melting on July 25, when temperatures rose, said Xavier Fattweiss, a scientist at the University of Liege in Belgium.
Thawed water spotted on Svalbard’s ice sheet, comparing images from July 27, 2019 to July 27, 2020. (European Union, images of Copernicus Sentinel-2, edited by Annamaria Luongo)
Arctic forest fire emissions have set records
Although Siberia’s extreme temperatures – including the probable Arctic temperature record of 100.4 degrees (38 degrees Celsius) recorded in June in Verkhoyansk, which lies above the Arctic Circle – have attracted the most attention, it is there that wildfires have extraordinary effects of ripples outside it. region. These fires have been going on at a steady pace since June.
Every day, smoke containing greenhouse gases that warm the planet is poured into the air, and on earth the flames destabilize permafrost, burning protective vegetation over the constantly frozen soil. It also contributes to climate change because it releases carbon and methane.
Comparison of images of glaciers in Svalbard, Norway on July 27, 2019 against July 27, 2020. (European Union, images of Copernicus Sentinel-2, edited by Annamaria Luongo)
During July during July, satellite images stretching across most of the lower 48 states showed a milky tinge of smoke thick enough to darken the earth. The most severe fires are accompanied by high smoke streams, known as pyrocumulonimus clouds, or pyrocubs.
Arctic-style carbon emissions, caused mainly by Siberian fires, reached record levels in July, according to the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service, a European Union scientific agency based in Reading, England. Such data last up to 18 years, and during this period there is an increase in emissions into the Arctic fire.
From July 1 to 23, total carbon emissions from the Siberian Arctic are projected to be 100 metric megatons of carbon dioxide, said Mark Parrington, a senior researcher at Copernicus’ atmospheric monitoring service, by e-mail. Parrington said it was more than 59 metric megatons of carbon dioxide emitted by the Arctic Circle in June.
“A large cluster of fires in the well of the Siberian Arctic Circle has been burning for several days with high intensity (above the highest daily total amount calculated for the region in 2019) and is expected to continue,” Parrington said last Friday. it turned out to be true.
On Twitter on Wednesday, Parrington said: “July 2020 witnessed the escalation of previously unseen Arctic fires” in data collected by the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service. Parrington estimates that satellite emissions emit twice as much as last year’s record-breaking Arctic fire season.
Smoke from these fires, including ash and carbon monoxide, spread across the Chukchi Sea to Alaska.
Siberia experienced record heat during the calendar year. Siberian fires and, in particular, prolonged heat have already been directly linked to man-made climate change.
A quick analysis of the researchers found that the prolonged heat from January to June in northern Siberia occurred at least 600 times as much as possible due to man-made climate change. This led them to conclude that such an event would be almost impossible in the absence of global warming.
In addition, other parts of the Arctic are affected by climate change as well as weather conditions.
Meanwhile, extreme temperatures in the Scandinavian Arctic and Siberia have spread to northern Canada. On July 25, a temperature of 71.4 degrees was recorded at 80 degrees north latitude in Eureka, Nunavut, located in the Canadian Arctic. According to Mick Rantanen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, this may be the highest temperature in the north today.
As an example of how extreme weather events can interact with long-term climate change trends, a strong low-pressure zone spun around the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska earlier this week, potentially accelerating the melting of sea ice. Low is reminiscent of a powerful storm that killed sea ice during the 2012 summer melting season. This storm helped accelerate the loss of ice, which led to a record low amount of ice.
Despite the fact that this intensity is similar, the recent storm is unlikely to have the same effect on the trajectory of the melting season, according to sea ice experts. Noting that the amount of sea ice is in a record low area, the storm hit a region full of the thickest ice in the Arctic. Most of the ice losses this summer fell on the Eurasian side of the Arctic, including north of Siberia, where the Northern Sea Route probably opened on the earliest date of its recording, a full moon earlier than average.
“The key is actually the timing of the storm and the thickness of the ice that’s there,” said Julien Stroy, a senior fellow at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, in an email.
There is a possibility that the storm could accelerate the melting of the ice, but it depends on a number of factors.
“Because storms tend to cause ice divergence if a storm pushes some of the ice in Beaufort [Sea] towards [the] The Bering Strait will probably melt then, because the ocean temperatures there are up to 5 degrees Celsius warmer than average, ”Stroy said.
Walt Meyer, a colleague of the NSDC from Stroy, noted that the storm of 2012 hit later in the melting season and in a region where the ice cover had already disintegrated and was quite scattered (low concentration). waves and really cut the ice.This year the ice in this region looks, at least for now, more formidable.It is denser and probably thicker.So this year’s storm may not have the same impact as in 2012. Let’s see » .
Almost evenly, scientists studying polar warming emphasize how fast change is happening across the vast region. A study published Wednesday in Nature Climate Change reinforces this impression by showing that “major parts” of the region have warmed at a rate of 1.8 degrees (1 Celsius) for decades over 40 years, a “dramatic event of climate change.” when viewed in the light of the paleoclimate, records of sharp glacial episodes in the past.
Research has shown that even the most complex climate model scenarios tend to underestimate the latest pace and scale of climate change in the Arctic. Co-author Martin Stendel, a researcher at the Danish Meteorological Institute, wrote via Twitter that “[a]Drastic changes in the composition of the additional period can be avoided only in the low-emission scenario. ”
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