(ORDO NEWS) — In late June, in Verkhoyansk, known as the cold pole of the Northern Hemisphere, the air warmed up to plus 38 degrees Celsius. For the Arctic, this is an absolute record for the entire history of observations. RIA Novosti understood how the weather in the Arctic is changing and what will happen to permafrost if warming continues.
Interested in UN situation
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is constantly updating the Archive of data on extreme weather and climate events. This is a kind of Guinness Book of Records climatologists. And, of course, scientists are closely monitoring what is happening in Verkhoyansk.
The Arctic, which is called “weather cuisine”, is a special region. Many cyclones, storms and hurricanes are born here. Therefore, WMO has created a separate category in the archive – “territories north of the Arctic Circle”.
This year was especially warm for the Arctic. After an unusually mild winter, the Siberian rivers opened early from the ice and the temperature in May was ten degrees higher than normal. The previous three years were also warm. As a result, the volume of Arctic sea ice by September 2019 decreased by more than half compared with the average value for 1979-2019.
The Arctic is warming rapidly – about two times faster than the rest of the planet. WMO indicates possible negative consequences: forest fires, coastal erosion. But the most unpleasant thing is the thawing of permafrost, which threatens the habitat of wild and domestic animals, residential buildings and infrastructure, economic activities. It is also possible the release of large volumes of methane from the bowels – a powerful greenhouse gas.
Where did the arctic heat come from?
The reasons for the extremely high temperatures in the north of Eastern Siberia are explained to RIA Novosti by the deputy director of the A. Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the head of the climatology laboratory of the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir Semenov:
“What is happening in the Arctic is not a direct result of global warming. Over the past forty years, since the mid-1970s, the average temperature in Russia has increased by about two degrees, and in the Arctic – by three. These are very noticeable changes. to imagine their scale, it’s enough to say that now June is the same as July forty years ago. And this year, temperature deviations in the Verkhoyansk region almost reached ten degrees. ”
According to the climatologist, the abnormally warm weather is associated with the extensive blocking anticyclone established over the region that arose as a result of disturbance in atmospheric circulation. The same anticyclone brought prolonged heat in the summer of 2010 to Moscow, in 2012 to Siberia, and in 2015 to Yamal. Nevertheless, the root cause of all this is still in global warming.
“Heat waves are becoming more frequent – periods of long hot weather. It is natural – if the average temperature rises, then the temperature anomalies become more and more extreme,” the scientist notes. moving between continents and oceans. Because of this, movement along the latitudinal circle stopped for some time, cyclones and anticyclones stood still, in some areas it was cold, in others it is hot. At the moment, solar radiation in the north is at its maximum, and if the air stops mix, it overheats. This happened in Verkhoyansk.”
Scientists do not yet know exactly how atmospheric circulation will eventually change, but there will probably be more such blocking anticyclones. And this is not the only consequence of global warming.
That heat, then rain
A recent study, based on an analysis of data from more than 36 thousand weather stations around the world, showed that as the air continues to heat up, the rains intensify.
“With one degree warming, the moisture content in the atmosphere increases by seven percent,” says Vladimir Semenov. “Moisture is latent heat. If, for example, average temperatures in European Russia have risen by two degrees, then the atmosphere’s moist air is already “15 percent more energy. And when this heated humid air meets the cold from the Arctic, flurries, tornadoes and heavy rainfall arise.”
According to the scientist, such weather can no longer be considered something unusual. Rather, it is a new reality in which we have to live for at least the next ten years. It is necessary to adapt – prepare the infrastructure (for example, change the storm sewer), increase the reliability of buildings and structures, create green oases of coolness in cities.
In the Arctic, there is another serious threat associated with warming – melting, or, as scientists say, permafrost degradation, which has long been called not “eternal” but “perennial”. It destroys roads, pipelines, industrial infrastructure, construction on stilts.
How extreme heat in the north of Eastern Siberia in June could affect the permafrost thawing, says Nikolai Osokin, deputy director of the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences
“One even a very hot season will not fundamentally change the situation. In the tundra, the permafrost is covered with moss – a good heat insulator. Usually it thaws in a meter and a half during the summer, now, maybe in a half and two meters. It doesn’t matter. It will be important what winter will be like “If it’s cold, then everything will freeze again and start in the spring again. And if there are several successive combinations of warm summer – warm winter, then an unfrozen layer will form at the depth – talik,” the scientist says.
As warming, the thawing of permafrost increases by several centimeters per year, but this, according to the glaciologist, is not so dangerous, because taliks are formed at a depth of one and a half to two meters, and the piles on which houses and bridges stand are buried by ten to twenty meters. Modern SNiPs – construction norms and rules – take into account this displacement of the upper permafrost boundary.
About fifty years ago, when permafrost was considered “eternal”, SNiPs were completely different – sometimes piles drove only five meters. But it was then that the Arctic cities were built. By the way, the tank in Norilsk, from which diesel fuel leaked, was built more than forty years ago.
In addition, there is such a factor as permafrost temperature, on which its stability depends. With increasing temperature, the bearing load of permafrost decreases, even if there are no taliks.
“Undoubtedly, we need control over old structures built in other climatic conditions, although extreme deviations were laid down in the design there. So if there were no disturbances during the construction, nothing catastrophic will happen because of one hot summer,” the scientist reassures. But he immediately clarifies: if there are several warm years and winters in a row.
And all climate models say that most likely it will be that way.
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