GENEVA - Scientists warn record Siberian temperatures and the rapid melting of the Arctic sea ice along the Russian coast indicate that climate change is occurring and may be irreversible.
Siberia, famous for its bitterly cold weather, has been experiencing a tropical heat wave, with temperatures reaching a record 38 degrees Celsius June 20 in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk.
This week alone, the World Meteorological Organization reports some parts of Siberia have been warmer than the U.S. states of Florida and California, with temperatures going above 30 degrees Celsius. It says the exceptional and prolonged heat is fueling devastating Arctic fires and causing a rapid decrease in the Arctic sea ice coverage.
WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis says the Arctic is heating more than twice the global average, and that is having a major impact on local populations and ecosystems.
“We always say what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic," said Nullis. "It does affect our weather in different parts of the world where hundreds of millions of people live. There was a study last week, which says that the extreme heat that we are seeing would have been almost impossible without climate change. So, it does have a clear fingerprint of climate change on it.”
Since January, Scientists estimate total carbon emissions from the fires raging inside the Arctic Circle are the highest in 18 years of monitoring the phenomenon. In addition, they warn the melting of ice and thawing of permafrost will potentially release methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.
Nullis tells VOA greenhouse gases are having a major impact on infrastructure and ecosystems throughout the region.
“It will be very, very hard to reverse because of the law of physics," said Nullis. "You know, the levels of carbon dioxide, which we have got in the atmosphere now, will carry on heating surface temperatures for generations to come. The lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere runs into many, many, many decades.”
A new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change warns that the iconic polar bear—a symbol of climate change—may be nearly extinct by the end of the century because of shrinking sea ice. The article suggests high greenhouse gas emissions also will likely cause a steep decline in the reproduction of other Arctic subpopulations by 2100.