One of the coldest places on Earth became one of the warmest.
A heat wave in Russia on Saturday sent temperatures in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk soaring to 38 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). Meteorologists say that would be the highest number ever recorded north of the Arctic Circle.
Verkhoyansk is about 10 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle.
Temperatures in the town average 40 degrees below zero Celsius (-40 Fahrenheit) in winter, and it rarely gets warmer than 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) in summer.
Experts blame the unusual heat wave on a massive high-pressure system that has been stalled over Siberia for almost two weeks, preventing cooler air from flowing south.
All of Russia has experienced an uncharacteristically warm winter and spring this year, with average temperatures breaking records in the first five months of the year set in 2016.
The Arctic’s recent record temperatures have had disastrous effects, contributing to an oil spill in late May, which the World Wildlife Fund called the second largest oil spill in Russian History. A power plant storage tank in Northern Russia began leaking diesel oil when the permafrost that its supports were built on began to melt.
More than 150,000 barrels of diesel oil have leaked into nearby lakes and rivers, and risk reaching the Arctic Ocean. Other oil and gas pipelines and storage tanks in the region, as well as buildings, also rest on permafrost.
Scientists say that on average, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, endangering the plants, animals and nearly 4 million people living in the region. The melting is a negative cycle: As more white ice melts away revealing darker ground and water, the landscape reflects less sunlight away and absorbs more heat.