Temperatures in Svalbard hit a record high

Longyearbyen reached 21.7 degrees Celsius Friday, breaking a 41-year-old record.

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The town of Longyearbyen is seen in the late evening light in Svalbard, Norway, August 4, 2019. (Hannah McKay / Reuters file photo)

OSLO — Temperatures at Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago about midway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole, hit a record high of 21.7 degrees Celsius on Friday, Norway’s Meteorological Institute said.

The islands are warming faster than almost anywhere on Earth, highlighting risks in other parts of the Arctic from Alaska to Siberia, a Norwegian report said last year.

“A 41-year-old record has been broken in Longyearbyen,” the Meteorological Institute said on Twitter.

Between 5 and 6 p.m. CET (3 to 4 p.m. GMT), the temperature measured 21.7 degrees Celsius (about 71 degrees Fahrenheit), 0.4 degrees C above the previous record from 1979, it added.

Home to more than 2,000 people, Longyearbyen, the main settlement in Svalbard, is about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) from the North Pole.

The Norwegian Centre for Climate Studies said last February average temperatures in Svalbard had leapt between 3 and 5 degrees C (5.4-9.0 F) since the early 1970s and could rise by a total of 10 degrees C (18 degrees F) by 2100, if world greenhouse gas emissions keep climbing.

Rising temperatures would thaw the frozen ground underpinning many buildings, roads and airports and could cause more avalanches and landslides, it added.

Two people died in 2015 when an avalanche destroyed 10 houses in Longyearbyen.

A warming climate also threatens Arctic wildlife such as polar bears and seals which depend on the sea ice cover.