Record-setting heat around the Arctic this week

It’s been a scorcher of a week in the Arctic, filled with record-breaking temperatures from Canada to Russia.

It’s been a scorcher of a week in the Arctic, filled with record-breaking temperatures from Canada to Russia

In this handout photo taken Sunday, June 21, 2020 an outside thermometer shows 30 C at around 11 p.m. in Verkhoyansk, Russia. A record-breaking temperature of 38 C was registered in the Arctic town on Saturday, June 20. (Olga Burtseva/The Associated Press)

Temperatures through the Arctic and Canadian territories, particularly through Nunavut have been well above seasonal this week. With communities like Kugaaruk seeing thermometer readings triple their normal for this time of year. While other regions around the world have been consistently doubling their seasonal, like Siberia. 

The Arctic is one of the regions in the world where results of climate change are most pronounced. It is also a region where the effects are seen and felt more prominently because of a process called Arctic amplification. 

Climate change in the Arctic Circle

We have already had a year of temperature and climate records across the planet, and this week continued those in the Arctic. Now, what's important to note is the Arctic essentially acts as a refrigerator on the planet, regulating and cooling temperatures. As the Arctic warms, a variety of feedback loops continue to increase. 

This is what Arctic amplification is, essentially the Arctic will amplify other climate changes. For example, in the sea ice-albedo feedback loop as ice melts, more water is exposed (water is less reflective than ice, and absorbs more heat) which causes more heating, and more ice melt. And this continues in a cycle

The Arctic as a whole is warming twice as fast as the global average. So, extreme conditions, like heat waves are strengthened by changes in climate as well. 

Russian heatwave intensifies

The temperature in the Arctic Circle was reported as a scorching 38 C in Verkhoyansk, Russia, on June 20, the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. This breaks the previous record held by Fort Yukon, Alaska at 37.7 C, from 1915. 

New temperature record reported from Verkhoyansk, Russia. The average temperature this time of year is 20C. (Bradlyn Oakes/CBC)

Now, this should be prefaced with the fact that temperatures do — commonly actually — get above 30 degrees in regions of Russia, but 38 C is not normal. This weekend temperatures look to be around 33 C in Verkhoyansk, a community that now holds both the hottest and coldest temperatures (–67.8 C) in the Arctic Circle. 

This extreme heatwave has further intensified fire activity, coming after a dry spring and above seasonal temperatures from January onward according to the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service. Temperatures in the region averaged 10 C above seasonal through May, with this trend continuing into June. This led to permafrost thaw and drying, creating the perfect conditions for raging wildfires. 

Heat a little closer to home

In the Canadian territories, and particularly the Kivalliq and Kitikmeot, it was a record-breaking week as well. Though this spike in the thermometers comes after an otherwise cold start to June. 

Temperatures soared above normal in many communities. Over the last week, communities like Kugaaruk and a little further south, Baker Lake both toppled multiple records. 

Record breaking heat swept into Nunavut to start off summer on a high note. (Bradlyn Oakes/CBC)

Heat pushed into most of Nunavut, breaking records. On June 22 there were new records for Alert (12.5 C) and Baker Lake (25.6 C). This continued on June 23 for Kugaaruk (17.0), Naujaat (15.6 C), Taloyoak (17.1 C), Gjoa Haven (14.0 C) and Baker Lake (22.0 C). And as we neared the end of the week Grise Fiord (12.3 C) and Pond Inlet (13.5 C) had new records for June 24. 

All, in all, it was a hot week for the Canadian Arctic. But temperatures will head back to seasonal this coming week to start July. 


Bradlyn Oakes


Bradlyn Oakes, CBC North’s meteorologist, covers the weather and climate for the Canadian territories. You can catch her weekdays on CBC’s Northbeat at 6 pm MT. Have weather photos to share? Send them to