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10/04/2007

Record 22C temperatures in Arctic heatwave

The Arctic
Image:
Arctic ice ebbs to record level: Ice breaks away from a frozen coastline near the Norwegian Arctic town of Longyearbyen April 23, 2007. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Parts of the Arctic have experienced an unprecedented heatwave this summer, with one research station in the Canadian High Arctic recording temperatures above 20C, about 15C higher than the long-term average. The high temperatures were accompanied by a dramatic melting of Arctic sea ice in September to the lowest levels ever recorded, a further indication of how sensitive this region of the world is to global warming. Scientists from Queen's University in Ontario watched with amazement as their thermometers touched 22C during their July field expedition at the High Arctic camp on Melville Island, usually one of the coldest places in North America.

"This was exceptional for a place where the normal average temperatures are about 5C. This year we frequently recorded daytime temperatures of between 10C and 15C and on some days it went as high as 22C," said Scott Lamoureux, a professor of geography at Queen's.

"Even temperatures of 15C are higher than we'd expect and yet we recorded them for between 10 and 12 days during July. We won't know the August and September recordings until next year when we go back there but it appears the region has continued to be warm through the summer."

The high temperatures on the island caused catastrophic mudslides as the permafrost on hillsides melted, Professor Lamoureux said. "The landscape was being torn to pieces, literally before our eyes."

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