Svalbard sees record November heat

Average November highs are -5.1 degrees C, but a station last week measured a new high of 9.4 degrees C.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - November 17, 2020
The Longyearbyen airport on Svalbard just recorded a new record high temperature. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

Shortly after midnight on November 12, Norway’s weather service recorded a temperature of 9.4 degrees Celsius at a weather station in Svalbard.

That’s the highest ever recorded in November on Svalbard, said Climate Scientist Ketil Isaksen with the Norwegian Meteorological Institute in a tweet.

At Longyearbyen airport, the peak temperature last night reached 9.2 degrees C for a short period, nearly two degrees warmer than the last November record measured in 1975 when the thermometer reached 7.5 degrees C. Historically, average November temperature for Longyearbyen is a low of -10.1 C and high of -5.1 C.

The sun is now under the horizon for a polar night that last until early March.

Last night’s heat follows a pattern of extreme temperatures for the European and Russian Arctic this summer and fall. Average temperature at the Russian archipelago of Severnaya Zemlya north of the Siberian mainland was as much as 10 degrees Celsius warmer than normal in October.

In July, Longyearbyen at Svalbard had new heat record ever for the Norwegian Arctic with 21.7 degrees C.

Located at 78 degrees North, Longyearbyen faces climate changes like few other towns. Houses are sagging as thawing permafrost makes the ground unstable. Until last winter, Svalbard counted 100 consecutive months with above normal temperatures.

The Norwegian meteorological institute explains the heat with the negative spiral caused by climate change. Less sea-ice and less white snow-covered land mean less of the sunlight being reflected back to space. Darker waters-surface and soil absorbs more heat, again accelerating the permafrost thaw and causes more sea-ice to melt.

If global emissions continue to increase like today, the annual average temperature at Svalbard will be above zero degrees by the end of this century, the meteorological institute predicts.