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The Siberian warmth wave drives large forest fires, sea ice melts within the Arctic

A woman near the ruins of a summer house that was destroyed by fire in a dacha community in the Moshkovo district, Novosibirsk region, southern Siberia. There are hundreds of fires in the Novosibirsk region that are believed to have been caused by the burning of old grass.

Kirill Kukhmar | TASS | Getty Images

The World Meteorological Organization warned on Friday that temperatures in Siberia in June were about 18 degrees [10 degrees Celsius] above average, as devastating fires rage and ice melts off the Arctic coast in the Arctic.

"The Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the global average, affecting local people and ecosystems, and has a global impact," said WMO General Secretary Petteri Taalas in a statement.

According to a recent study by the World Weather Attribution project, the Siberian heat wave and record heat in the Arctic would be practically impossible without man-made climate change.

The WMO also said that the heat wave is due in part to a blocking pressure system and a swinging jet of the north that sends hot air into the region.

Temperatures in the Siberian city of Verkhoyansk reached a record 100.4 degrees [38 degrees Celsius] in June. The Arctic experienced the highest annual temperatures from 2016 to 2019, with 2020 likely to be even hotter.

"What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic. Because of long-distance connections, the poles affect the lower latitude weather and climate conditions that hundreds of millions of people live in," said Taalas.

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The forest fires in the Arctic caught fire unusually early this year due to the hot and dry conditions in Siberia. In June, in almost two decades of data collection, they released more harmful gases into the environment than any other fire.

The flames devastated local ecosystems and habitats and released planet-warming carbon dioxide and soot.

The fires have also thawed permafrost that contains methane and carbon dioxide. Scientists warn that the melting permafrost could release up to 240 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere by 2100.

It's practically certain that 2020 will be one of the hottest years ever, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Last year was the second most important year of all, and the hottest decade of all time ended with the acceleration of global warming.

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