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Executive Summary for July 22nd

In this weekly roundup, we review and analyze the latest news and key developments in the Arctic, including record global temperatures and Siberian forest fires.

Published on July 22, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

The Hottest Year on Record

Global temperatures for 2016 have been much warmer than ever before, according to scientists from NASA, reported the New York Times.

Every month this year, so far, from January to June, has registered the highest average temperature on record for that month. Last year, 2015, had previously held the six-month record, but Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, said 2016 “has blown that out of the water,” several media outlets reported. InsideClimate News explored the records in an infographic.

According to the records from NASA and NOAA, June was 0.9C (1.6F) warmer than the 20th-century average and the hottest on record since 1880, reported the Guardian. According to the article, the planet is in a 14-month-long stretch of monthly record-breaking temperatures, driven by global warming and aided by the powerful El Nino.

Temperatures in the Arctic over the past six months have also been extreme. The community of Deadhorse, Alaska, on the state’s northern coast, hit a record high of 29C (84F) in early July. A heatwave struck western Nunavut in June and early July, sending temperatures to 29.2C on June 5, reported Nunatsiaq Online.

Forest Fires Widespread in Siberia

A belt of smoke from forest fires is covering large areas of Siberia, reports Mashable.

NASA satellite imagery taken this week shows dozens of active blazes, although just how large the area burning is remains hazy. Environmental groups have said government reports underestimate the extent of the burn, according to the article. A Greenpeace report said this year’s forest fires were on par with the worst in history.

In addition to drier conditions due to climate change, forest management practices have been blamed partly for the wildfires, according to an AFP story. According to that story, Russia’s forests absorb 500 million tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere annually, roughly equivalent to the emissions from 534 coal-burning power plants.

A Trillion Tons of Ice Lost

Greenland has lost more than a trillion tons of ice between 2011 and 2014, according to the Washington Post.

The study used satellite data to determine how the altitude of Greenland’s surface had changed over time as ice was added to – or lost from – its surface. The ice loss was greatest in the southwest, but there were parts of the north that also shrank, according to the story.

A blog post on Slate puts the amount in perspective. A trillion tons of ice would be equivalent to a very large cube measuring 10km (6mi) on each side, taller than Mount Everest, writes Phil Plait. It’s enough to raise sea levels by 2.5mm (0.1in) in that time.

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