As temperatures in the Pacific Northwest approach 115 degrees this weekend, a second regime of top-tier heat will scorch Europe in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave. Monthly highs have already reached near 100 degrees in some areas, with temperatures nearing 90 degrees in the Arctic Circle.
Moscow and St. Petersburg hit their highest June temperatures on record Wednesday, reaching the mid-90s, while Estonia and Belarus set new monthly highs this week.
Highs that are 20 degrees or more above average are currently wrapping across Central and Eastern Europe, with the greatest anomalies centered over Scandinavia and parts of western Russia. A second lobe of intense heat has formed over eastern Russia, near the East Siberian Sea.
Extreme heat waves, which are becoming disproportionately more severe and frequent as a result of human-caused climate change, are the leading cause of weather-related fatalities in most of Europe and Asia.
Over the weekend, the first signs of warmth appeared in Arctic Russia, such as Tyumyati, which is located along the Olenyak River at 72 degrees north latitude. On Saturday, it reached 88.3 degrees, while Kotelny, an island in the Laptev and East Siberian Seas, reached 64 degrees. According to climate historian Maximiliano Herrera, this is the first time Kotelny has measured a temperature this high before the summer solstice.
Concurrently, the warmth established in Europe. Germany recorded a high temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the fourth day in a row on Sunday. On Sunday evening, 62 stations in Austria reported lows above 20 degrees Celsius — 68 degrees Fahrenheit. In Daugavgrva, Latvia, a morning low of 74.7 degrees was recorded, tying a record for the country’s mildest overnight low.
On Sunday, at least ten new monthly records were set in Estonia, with highs ranging from 88 to 92 degrees. Kunda, in northern Estonia on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, recorded a 92.7 degree reading, just half a degree shy of a 116-year-old national record for the month of June. Kunda is at the same latitude as the southernmost point of Hudson Bay in Canada.
Kunda later broke the record on Wednesday, when temperatures reached 93.4 degrees. And, with a temperature of 94.3 degrees, Narva, Estonia set a national record for the country’s hottest June day in recorded history.
Monday was the hottest summer solstice on record in Finland, with a high of 90 degrees recorded in Parikkala Koitsanlahti in the country’s southeast. With bookkeeping dating back to 1952, Helsinki broke its June monthly record with a high of 89.1 degrees. It also set a record warm minimum nighttime temperature early Monday, with the overnight temperature failing to fall below 72.5 degrees.
The extreme heat in Finland is a direct result of climate change. According to Mike Rantanen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Finland has only eclipsed 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit) twice since 1952, but has done so in each of the last four years. Tampere Härmälä, in southwestern Finland, set an all-time record for any month with a temperature of 91.8 degrees.
You are not imagining things if it appears that every summer in Europe features a litany of monthly records falling, such as when Paris hit 108.7 degrees in 2019 during an extreme heat event. The frequency and magnitude of heat extremes are increasing dramatically as a result of human-caused climate change, owing primarily to the increased longevity and potency of so-called high pressure “heat domes.”
Aside from the immediate implications for public health, which are concerning given the scarcity of air conditioning in parts of Europe and the aging, vulnerable populations, the ongoing heat, particularly in the Arctic, presents a plethora of feedback cycles and complications that can exacerbate climate change even further. Melting ice and permafrost are among them, hastened by unusual warmth.
Europe already has the highest rate of heat-related mortality of any region on the planet, and with climate change expected to continue accelerating warming, events like this one will become more common in the future.