Polar heat record. July average above 10°C

Never before has the average monthly temperature at Svalbard been measured above 10°C. That is not good news.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - August 2, 2023
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Kaykers make ready for Adventfjorden near Longyearbyen at Svalbard. July was exceptionally warm at 78°N. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Polar Climate is a meteorological term for Arctic regions with mid-average temperature for the warmest month in the year less than 10°C. Such areas are with glaciers and permafrost.

Svalbard, Norway’s Arctic Archipelago, has since measuring started had Polar Climate. Until this July, according to the Meteorological Institute.

“For the first time, we have measured temperatures above Polar Climate at Arctic stations. That is middle temperatures at 10 degrees or more,” says climate scientist Helga Tilley Tajet.

“Two stations had above,” she adds. “Svalbard airport was the warmest with an average temperature of 10,1 degrees. Pyramiden had 10 degrees.”

“The temperature at Svalbard airport is 3,1 degrees higher than normal,” Tajet says.

Measuring dramatic Arctic climate changes. Longyearbyen. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

People in Longyearbyen, the main settlement at Svalbard, woke up on July 5 with the news that the outdoor temperature was warmer than in Paris that morning. At 1 pm the Norwegian Meteorological Institute reported about 18° Celsius.

Day-to-day temperatures are weather, not climate. Scientists, however, are clear: The Arctic is warming three times faster than global average. According to the Norwegian Polar Institute, this is mainly because the melting of snow and ice exposes a darker surface and increases the amount of solar energy absorbed in these areas.

At Svalbard, the trend is more extreme weather. Declining sea-ice in the Greenland Sea is a main reason for more rain in recent years and more will come, the Barents Observer reported last fall.

More landslides are seen and thawing permafrost makes big trouble for locals as houses are sagging and coastal erosions increasing.

The period 1991-2020 had an average June to August temperature at Svalbard airport of 5,5 degrees, and for the last 10 years, the average has been 6,4 degrees, according to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.

Summer 2022 saw the average even higher, with 7,4 degrees for June, July and August at the airport a few kilometers west of Longyearbyen, the main settlement on the archipelago.

Pyramiden, a Soviet-era ghost town at 79°North had an average temperature of 10°C for July. Not good news for the melting Nordenskiold glacier on the horizon. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Located in Kirkenes, Norway, just a few kilometres from the borders to Russia and Finland, the Barents Observer is dedicated to cross-border journalism in Scandinavia, Russia and the wider Arctic.

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