Illustration: A polar bear in Svalbard, Norway, in 2018. - BJ KIRSCHHOFFER / POLAR BEARS INTERNATIONAL / AFP

Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic, recorded temperatures above 20 degrees on Saturday, the hottest ever recorded in more than forty years and almost equal to the absolute record, according to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.

With a peak at 21.2 degrees this Saturday afternoon, the archipelago experienced its second hottest day since the start of meteorological records. The only known precedent is July 16, 1979, when the mercury had reached 21.3 degrees, said the meteorologist on duty at the institute, Kristen Gislefoss.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the planet as a whole

The group of islands, sometimes better known as Spitsbergen, is located a thousand kilometers from the North Pole. The heat peak this Saturday, which should last until Monday, is far above seasonal norms: the usual temperatures in July, the hottest month in the Arctic, are around 5 to 8 degrees in Svalbard.

Scientists say the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the entire planet. The summer of 2020 in the region is marked by almost scorching episodes in the Russian part of the Arctic: temperatures 5 ° C above normal since January in Siberia and a peak at 38 ° C in early July beyond. of the arctic circle.

Plus 7 to 10 degrees over the 2070-2100 period

According to a recent official Norwegian Climate in Svalbard 2100 report, the average temperature in Svalbard for the period 2070-2100 is expected to increase by 7 to 10 degrees compared to the period 1970-2000, depending on the level of human emissions in the decades to come. . The change is already visible: "From 1971 to 2017, a warming of 3 to 5 ° C was observed, with the largest increases in winter", according to the report.

Known for its polar bears, Svalbard has the paradoxical characteristic of being home to both a coal mine, the energy that emits the most greenhouse gases, and a “vegetal Noah's Ark”, inaugurated in 2008 to protect plants imperities of men.

This vault, supposed to be a parade against climate change, has itself been the victim of global warming. Some 20 million euros of work had to be carried out there due to water infiltration caused by the melting permafrost in 2016.


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