‘Merciless’ temperatures push Moscow to hottest June day in 142 years, as heatwave hits Russia

Hot dry weather causing wildfires in parts of Siberia north of the Arctic circle

Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent
Wednesday 23 June 2021 14:39 BST
<p>Image taken by the EU’s Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite shows land surface temperatures reaching nearly 50C around the town of Verkhojansk</p>

Image taken by the EU’s Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite shows land surface temperatures reaching nearly 50C around the town of Verkhojansk

A heatwave has pushed temperatures in Moscow to the highest recorded in June in 142 years.

On Monday the temperature hit 31.9C in the Russian capital and the day before, the city saw its hottest midsummers’ day in 65 years when it reached 31.1C, according to the state-run Tass news agency.

The city’s all time record high temperature, of 34.7C set in 1901, could be broken in the coming days, forecasters said, with temperatures expected to reach up to 36C.

According to the Phobos meteorological centre’s Evgeny Tishkovets, across the Central Russian Plain, “not a drop of rain water will fall from the sky, and the June sun will continue to burn mercilessly”.

On average Russia is experiencing temperature rises 2.5 times faster than the rest of the world, as the climate crisis has exacerbated heating at the Earth’s poles.

St Petersburg, 400 miles north west of Moscow, has seen heat records broken on three consecutive days. The city saw temperatures rise to 30.7C on Monday, beating a previous high of 30.4C, recorded in 2006.

Similar temperatures have been recorded in the Arctic.

On Saturday temperatures rose to 31.1C in Tyumyati in the republic of Sakha, also known as Yakutia, which is 2,500 miles north east of Moscow and inside the Arctic circle, The Moscow Times reported.

Meanwhile, on Siberia’s Kotelny Island – one of the northernmost pieces of land on Earth – temperatures hit a record-breaking 17.6C, also on Saturday.

In Saskylah, a small community also in the republic of Sakha, the air temperature reached 31.9C, the highest record since 1936, according to data obtained by the European Union’s Copernicus satellites.

The Sentinel-3A and Sentinel-3B satellites showed the land surface temperature in Siberia was above 35 C, and a peak of 48C was recorded near the town of Verkhojansk, in the republic of Sakha.

The soaring temperatures follow a long dry period, and are of particular concern in the Yakutian region, where 64 forest fires were active as of Tuesday, the regional government said in a news release.

Governor Aisen Nikolaev said the current climate was a key factor leading to the rapid increase in the number of fires.

The government said 1,586 firefighters and 139 pieces of equipment were currently being used to tackle the blazes, The Barents Observer reported.

Officials predict that the current “abnormally hot weather” will last until the end of June.

Dry thunderstorms have also ignited new fires in recent days, they said, but added that so far none of the fires are currently threatening any communities or infrastructure.

US meteorologist Zack Labe noted that the heatwave was just part of a longer warming pattern recorded recently. He tweeted: “Temperatures from Svalbard to parts of the Siberian Arctic have averaged up to 5C above the 1981-2010 climate average during the last 12 months.”

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