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Home* News and Stories → July tem­pe­ra­tures in Spits­ber­gen war­mer than “arc­tic”

July tem­pe­ra­tures in Spits­ber­gen war­mer than “arc­tic”

The­re are seve­ral defi­ni­ti­ons for the Arc­tic, depen­ding on con­text. When it is a bout cli­ma­te, then the sou­thern boun­da­ry is usual­ly the 10 degree july iso­therm. Sounds tech­ni­cal? May­be. But it makes sen­se: when the avera­ge tem­pe­ra­tu­re of the war­mest month – July – is war­mer than 10 degrees, then the­re will be shrubs or even trees. More than tun­dra, which is the typi­cal vege­ta­ti­on for the ice-free land are­as of the Arc­tic.

The­re are no shrubs or even trees in Spits­ber­gen (don’t get foo­led with the polar wil­low and the dwarf birch, they are not real­ly trees), but for the first time in histo­ry, local meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal sta­ti­ons have now in July recor­ded a mean tem­pe­ra­tu­re that doesn’t real­ly qua­li­fy as „high arc­tic“ any­mo­re. 10.1 degrees cen­ti­gra­de were mea­su­red at the air­port and 10 degrees in Pyra­mi­den. At the air­port, the month­ly avera­ge in July was as much as 3.1 degrees abo­ve the long-term avera­ge, accor­ding to the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te as quo­ted by Barents­ob­ser­ver.

Sun and temperature, Spitsbergen

In July, tou­rists and locals could enjoy real sum­mer wea­ther in Spits­ber­gen, with tem­pe­ra­tures far bey­ond expec­ta­ti­on. For the regio­nal cli­ma­te, this is not good news, howe­ver: warm­ing is con­ti­nuing rapidly, with tem­pe­ra­tu­re records being bro­ken on a regu­lar basis.

It will not hap­pen real­ly soon that you can make a walk in the forest in Spits­ber­gen, but the warm­ing trend as such is clear: during the meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal peri­od from 1991-2020, the avera­ge tem­pe­ra­tu­re for the sum­mer months from June to August was, at the air­port, 5.5°C, but loo­king just at the last deca­de gives a value of 6.4 degrees, accor­ding to the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te. Warm­ing is fas­ter in the Arc­tic than almost any­whe­re else on the pla­net, due to regio­nal effects such as the loss of sea ice.

This leads to worry­ing effects that may well even fur­ther ampli­fy the warm­ing pro­cess: sci­en­tists have recent­ly found metha­ne springs in are­as pre­vious­ly cover­ed by now retrea­ting gla­ciers. Through the­se springs, lar­ge volu­mes of gases, main­ly metha­ne, can escape into the atmo­sphe­re, while they were stored in the under­ground as long as it was gla­cier cover­ed. As a green­house gas, metha­ne is much stron­ger than car­bon dioxi­de. The amount of metha­ne curr­ent­ly emit­ted this way in Spits­ber­gen is esti­ma­ted near 2000 tons our about one tenth of the metha­ne emis­si­ons of Norway’s oil and gas indus­try. But this value may see a signi­fi­cant increase in the near future as gla­ciers keep retrea­ting, accor­ding to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge auf ihren Sei­ten.

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last modification: 2023-08-04 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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