A view of a forest fire in central Yakutia from a helicopter of the Yakut Branch of the Aerial Forest Protection Service.
CNN  — 

An estimated 59 megatonnes of carbon dioxide were released across Siberia in June by wildfires raging across the vast Russian region, according to scientists at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

Siberia is one of the coldest areas on Earth, but is currently grappling with intense fires as well as record high temperatures.

The area’s carbon dioxide emissions for June were its highest in the 18 years of the CAMS dataset, eclipsing a record of 53 megatonnes set in June 2019.

“Higher temperatures and drier surface conditions are providing ideal conditions for these fires to burn and to persist for so long over such a large area,” said CAMS senior scientist Mark Parrington.

“We have seen very similar patterns in the fire activity and soil moisture anomalies across the region in our fire monitoring activities over the last few years.”

Siberia also experienced its warmest June on record amid an unprecedented heatwave, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), a program affiliated with the European Commission.

Temperatures in the region were up to 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average in June.

Siberia tends to experience large swings in temperature month-to-month and year-to-year. But temperatures in the region have stayed well above average since 2019, which is unusual.

June temperatures across all of Siberia were more than five degrees Celsius (nine degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average and more than one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the same month in 2018 and 2019, the two previous warmest Junes.

CS3 estimated that eastern Siberia hit a maximum hourly Arctic temperature of 37 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on June 20. That’s a new high for the Arctic, being one to two degrees Celsius warmer than earlier records set in Alaska in 1969 and in eastern Siberia in 1973.

The Siberian heatwave has also contributed to dropping levels of sea ice, especially in the Arctic Ocean, according to the US’ National Snow and Ice Data Center.

But not all parts of the region have been affected. Western Siberia mainly recorded below-average temperatures last month.

The whole planet saw record-topping temperatures last month, tying with 2019 for the warmest June on record, at 0.53 degrees Celsius (0.95 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1981-2010 average.

In 2020, Copernicus found that four of the first six months of the year were either the hottest on record globally or tied with previous record temperatures. The exceptions were February and March 2020 which were the second warmest ever recorded globally.

“Finding what caused these record temperatures is not a straightforward endeavor as there are many contributing factors interacting with each other. Siberia and the Arctic Circle in general have large fluctuations from year to year and have experienced other relatively warm Junes before,” said C3S Director Carlo Buontempo. “What is worrisome is that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world.”

“Western Siberia experiencing warmer-than-average temperatures so long during the winter and spring is unusual, and the exceptionally high temperatures in Arctic Siberia that have occurred now in June 2020 are equally a cause for concern,” Buontempo said,

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet through a process known as Arctic amplification.

Arctic ice melt has accelerated, which leads to seasonal snow cover that isn’t as white and absorbs more sunlight, which leads to more warming, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The melting may already be having dramatic consequences. Last month a catastrophic oil spill in the Siberian city of Norlisk, which resulted in 20,000 tons of fuel spilling into a river, was blamed on permafrost thawing in the Arctic city.

CS3 researchers believe that large-scale wind patterns in Siberia and low snow cover and surface soil moisture may have led to the milder temperatures there this spring.