Siberia has been experiencing a prolonged period of unusually warm weather — with record-breaking winter and spring temperatures.
Climate change scientists are calling it an alarming sign. It illustrates the most notable effects of global climate change as the world warms.
Record-Breaking Warmer Temperatures in Siberia
In May, surface temperatures were up to 10 degrees Celsius (or 18 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average.
These record-breaking temperatures made it the Russian region’s hottest May since records began in 1979, according to research by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). The agency is affiliated with the European Commission.
“It is undoubtedly an alarming sign, but not only May was unusually warm in this region,” said Freja Vamborg, Senior Scientist at the C3S in a statement. “The whole of winter and spring had repeated periods of higher-than average surface air temperatures.”
Siberia wasn’t alone, either. The region’s unusually warm weather came as the rest of the world also experienced its hottest May on record.
But according to Vamborg, western Siberia stands out as a region that shows more of a warming trend, with higher variations in temperature.
It’s not unheard of for regions to experience “large temperature anomalies” like this. However, Vamborg notes, “what is unusual in this case is how long the warmer-than-average anomalies have persisted for.”
Many scientists agree that the Arctic region is warming, on average, twice as quickly as the rest of the planet as a consequence of global warming.
The Negative Effects of Warmer Temperatures
The region is already feeling the negative impacts of increased temperatures.
The warmer weather seems to have led to an exceptionally early ice thawing on Siberia’s major rivers. According to local news reports, the water started moving into some areas almost three weeks earlier than usual.
Just last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency in the city of Norilsk, after a massive oil spill occurred in the Arctic region. 20,000 tons of fuel spilled into a nearby river from a power station.
The collapse of a power plant caused the spill. Nornickel, the energy company’s parent, said the foundation of the storage tank sank due to thawing permafrost.
According to Russian news agency TASS, this highlights the dangers that increasingly warming temperatures pose to Arctic infrastructure and ecosystems.
“We will be seeing the repercussions for years to come,” said Sergey Verkhovets, coordinator of Arctic projects for Russia’s WWF branch.
“We are talking about dead fish, polluted plumage of birds, and poisoned animals,” Verkhovets continued.