Week of June 28, 2020


Last week, we learned that a town in Russia’s Siberian Region hit a high temperature of 100.4 degrees(F).  This was after an extremely warm spring and last half of the winter.  In fact, Russia had the hottest winter on record this year—with temperatures 12.4 to 14 degrees above the typical temperature from January through May.  European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that air temperatures in the high arctic region showed an 11- degree F above normal between 1979and 2019.  This data shows a disturbing pattern that can be added to the information we have about the amount of man-made emissions that are making worse our crisis of global warming.  Of course, in this arctic area, there is 24 hours if sunlight from may through July.  While interesting, why should we be concerned with a heat wave so far from our homes?

The answer is something called the “Polar Amplification” loop.  In extremely generalized layman’s terms, it is a looping effect of warm temperatures that melt sea ice and snow, producing open water and dark soil.  The dark surfaces absorb more heat which warms the air, which melts more ice and snow.  The loop continues to eventually cause sea level rise with many consequences.  Here are some of the reasons why we should be concerned with a heat wave in Siberia:

  1. “polar Amplification” leads to sea level rise which will be a challenge to all low- lying communities around the world.
  2. Darkened ocean water and uncovered land masses will increase average temperatures which will remove the carbon sink abilities of the arctic regions.
  3. Habitats will be destroyed which will likely increase species loss.
  4. Permafrost will melt.  Pests like mosquitos will increase, infrastructure like roads, bridges, airports, home, oil fields and many 1000’s of miles of pipelines carrying oil and gas will be more prone to leaking (uneven ground).  This May Siberian storage tanks holding 20,000 metric tons of diesel fuel ruptured and flowed into a river.
  5. Wildfires will increase as scrub bushes and grasses are easily dried out by warmer air.  The Russian Forest service says that 12 million acres of land have been or are currently affected by wildfires this season.

Could the Siberian weather pattern added to the human-made carbon emissions be our “New Normal” in environmental terms?  If so, the Siberian heat wave is a red flag waving in the wind to warn us to not forget the other crisis in 2020 (as if we needed more besides the pandemic and systemic racism) the crisis of climate change.

EARTH STEWARD ACTION:  Now is the time to look carefully at habits formed over the course of the pandemic.  What about our use of plastics—higher than normal? What about water use? What habits are more eco-friendly? Keep the good—toss the bad—resolve to continue to be responsible Earth Stewards.

SOURCES:  www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/06/100-degree-day-siberia/climate-change , www.vox.com/2020/6.23/21300279/arctic-siberia-temperature-heat-wave , www.accu.com/en/weather-news/siberia