The warming of the Arctic is something that should alarm all of us. Unfortunately, the BBC has reported that it’s been seeing Mediterranean-like temperatures in the summer. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), an agency of the United Nations, recently verified the record that was set on June 20, 2020, in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk.
The WMO said that the extreme heat was “more befitting the Mediterranean than the Arctic.” The article also noted that this was the first time the WMO included the Arctic Circle in its archive of extreme weather reports.
According to the agency, the record-setting temperature was measured at a meteorological station during “an exceptional and prolonged Siberian heatwave.” The extreme heat in the Arctic also inflamed the spread of wildfires that swept across northern Russia. These fires moved across forests and peatlands and ended up releasing record amounts of carbon. There was also a large amount of sea ice loss.
The WMO said that its verification of the Verkhoyansk record shows how temperatures are increasing in a climatically important region of the world. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas told BBC:
“This new Arctic record is one of a series of observations reported to the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes that sound the alarm bells about our changing climate.”
He added that the melting snow and ice in the Russian Arctic were adding to the warming.
“This is very much caused by changes in the radiation properties of the soil and the ocean … once we had snow cover, the radiation properties of the surface is very different from the dark soil or open sea.”
The agency added the Arctic Circle to its World Weather and Climate Extremes archive under a new category for high temperatures in the region. Unfortunately, the Arctic is one of the fastest-warming areas in the world, and it’s heating at more than twice the global average according to the WMO. This will lead to the thawing of the permafrost below the ground, which would release both carbon dioxide and methane that is currently locked up below ground.
How Doomed Are We?
I’m an optimist but I’m also a realist. I’d like to think we are doing all we can to stop this, but in reality, I think it’s too late. We, collectively, have already started down this path and are not reversing course well.
I mean, sure, political leaders talk and hold summits and make pledges, executive orders, and whatnot, but they also go back on their word far too much. One prime example is Biden allowing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after closing it off.
Living in Louisiana where hurricanes have been intensifying year after year, we are at the forefront of climate change. The best we can do is prepare for it and weather it. Louisiana State University, along with a few other schools, is being awarded $5.4 million from the Southern Climate Impact Planning Program. LSU will analyze coastal impacts from climate change and has been studying weather events such as excessive heat over the last 13 years. Although we are not the Arctic, one key thing that researchers discovered was that heat was the #1 weather-related killer in the US.
I bring this up because the heat isn’t going to go away — not with the planet warming year after year. And when those gases trapped under the permafrost are released, it’s only going to become hotter. Along with trying to stop or fight climate change, we need to focus on adapting to it. This means surviving it and ensuring that our food and as much of the animal kingdom as possible survive as well.
This doesn’t mean that we stop trying to solve the issues contributing to the warming of the planet. We should still focus on renewables, invest in companies that are promoting sustainability (if we can afford to invest, that is), and do our part to reduce our carbon footprints. But we should also consider planning to adapt to the inevitable. Heat-fueled extreme weather isn’t going to go away.