Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.The Arctic Circle is known for viciously cold winter temperatures that can cause frostbite within minutes—but this summer, parts of the area are so hot that touching the ground could burn your skin. The Siberian town of Verkhojansk recorded ground temperatures of 118 degrees on Monday, according to the European Union's Earth Observation Programme. The agency’s satellites captured images of the record-breaking heat wave gripping the Russian north. The Siberian town of Saskylah saw an all-time peak ground temperature of 90 degrees, and other towns recorded temperatures near 110 degrees, according to the EU’s space agency.
“2021 is a make-or-break year for climate action,” the World Meteorology Organization said in a statement Monday. “With the window to prevent the worst impacts of climate change—which include ever more frequent and more intense droughts, floods, and storms—closing rapidly.”
The organization also highlighted how dire the situation is in the Arctic, which is warming more than two times quicker than the global average. The fast rate is caused by a phenomenon called “Arctic amplification,” or the domino effect of the region’s highly reflective snow, large water volume, and fragile ecosystem. The high temperatures are causing wildfires in the Arctic too. As early as April, wildfires began to spark across Siberia, and got so bad the smoke could be seen from space, according to NASA imagery. Much like the Western United States and all other areas that traditionally experience wildfires, air quality deteriorated and officials issued a “black sky” warning, asking civilians to limit their time outside.
In 2020, Siberia was also hit by record-breaking hot temperatures, dating back to 1885, according to National Geographic. The increase in average temperatures means an impending tipping point in the climate crisis.
“For a long time, we’ve been saying we’re going to get more extremes like strong heat waves,” Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute, told National Geographic in 2020. “It’s a little like the projections are coming true, and sooner than we might have thought.”As Siberia keeps melting, permafrost melts and scientists warn that this releases greenhouse gasses like methane and carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases like these trap heat in the atmosphere causing the “greenhouse effect.” This leads to a domino effect that will continually change the climate at an exponentially negative rate. Strangely, in other parts of the Arctic, summer snow was falling this week.