SVALBARD, Norway (CN) — Researchers, tourists and locals have long had no need to store their lunch in a cooler when exploring Svalbard, Norway’s archipelago in the Arctic. That might change as climate change brings more heat to the area.
Temperature measurements taken at Svalbard Airport from June, July and August show that the Arctic archipelago went through a record hot summer this year, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute reported on Friday.
The summer season had an average daily temperature of 7.4 degrees Celsius (45.3 degrees Fahrenheit), which is 0.2 C higher than the previous record of 7.2 C (44.9 F) measured in 2020.
The regional climate has steadily gotten hotter in the past 30 years. From 1991 to 2020, the average summer temperature recorded at Svalbard Airport was 5.5 C (41.9F). The average of the past decade is 6.4 C (43.5 F)
“There is an end to the 'refrigerator temperature' that you had before if you relied on keeping food fresh in your rucksack for several days when going out on a trip,” the Norwegian Meteorological Institute said.
The heat also contributed to a record melting of ice in Svalbard. According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, the area is one of the fastest warming places on Earth. More than half of Svalbard’s land is covered with ice, which equals around 6% of all glaciated areas outside of Greenland and Antarctica.
Between June 1 and July 31, the cumulative melting across the archipelago was 1.5 times larger than a previous record in 2018. About 44 billion tons of meltwater poured into the ocean this summer, according to Xavier Fettweis, a climatologist at the University of Liège in Belgium.
“The melt anomaly is 3.5 times larger than the 1981–2010 average, and 5 times the interannual variability,” Fettweis told NASA’s Earth Observatory.
“Only a changing climate can explain this,” he said.
Another contributing factor is Svalbard’s sea ice, which retreated earlier than usual this year and exposed open ocean water by the end of spring 2022. This allows warm southerly winds to reach land without first being chilled by traveling through sea ice.
“Svalbard is now losing more ice than it is gaining and it is clear that this trend will continue in the future,” Fettweis said.
Increasingly melting glaciers is a phenomenon that is occurring across the Arctic Circle due to climate change. In Greenland, researchers said that the country’s ice sheet will lose about 110 trillion tons of ice in the next century.
On mainland Norway, this summer was the 15th warmest recorded since 1900. Norway’s northern region registered its seventh warmest summer, according to another report published Friday by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.