June Heat Wave in Kirkenes Not Necessarily Indication of Climate Change
The Norwegian Meteorological Institute records temperature, but not humidity and precipitation, at its Kirkenes weather station. This graph shows average monthly temperatures for the previous 12 months. (Image: yr.no, a service of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute)
The average temperature in Kirkenes for the month of June reached 12.8°C, which is 4.3°C above normal. But an executive meteorologist said this is not a record high, nor necessarily an indication of climate change.
The record high temperature for Kirkenes - an Arctic town just 15 kilometers from the border with Russia’s Kola Peninsula - was actually set in 1972, at 13 °C. The second highest record prior to 2013 was set in 1989, at 11.9 °C The Norwegian Meteorological Institute (MET) has been recording temperatures at a weather station at the Kirkenes Airport, 5.7 kilometers from town, since 1940.
The highest daily temperature for the June 2013 in Kirkenes was 28.7 °C. This was just .1 °C less than the town’s highest recorded daily temperature in the last 12 months, recorded the previous day, on May 31.
Historical data since 1965 indicates that average temperatures in ten year periods have varied slightly for the month of June in Kirkenes. From 1965 through 1974, the average was 9.08 °C. In the next ten year period, the average was 7.56 °C. Between 1985 and 1994, the average reached 8.69 °C. From 1995 to 2004, it reached 8.24 °C. Finally from 2005 to 2013, Kirkenes’ average temperature for the month of June reached 9.07 °C, just below the average for the 1965 to 1974 period.
Average temperature data was provided by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. (Image: Christi Turner)
Stein-Erik Øines, MET meterologist for the northern Norway region, said that average June temperatures in Kirkenes this year may just be “freaks,” such as in 1972 and 1989. Øines said that similar situations are being observed elsewhere in northern Norway, such as in Tromso, where average temperatures for the month of May beat the previous record, set in 1963.
Further north in Svalbard, records from as long ago as 1899 show that the June 2013 average temperature is the eight highest on record, at 4.4 °C. The highest daily temperature on Svalbard for June 2013, 12.5 °C, is the seventh highest on record. The highest June daily temperature for Svalbard was recorded in 2001, at 15.7 °C. However the average monthly temperature that year was only 1.3 °C above normal. The average temperature for June 2013 was 2.4 °C above normal. The second, third, fourth and sixth highest daily temperatures for the month of June on Svalbard were recorded in 2007, 2011, 2006 and 2005, respectively.
On a global scale, data from leading global analyses like the NASA Earth Observatory and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies indicates that average surface temperatures have increased sharply since 1980, a result of human-made greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere.
(Image: NASA, adapted from Goddard Institute for Space Studies data)
While temperature alone cannot tell the whole story, Øines said that there are no humidity or precipitation records for Kirkenes. However precipitation measurements in the surrounding area have been low: as low as 14 percent of normal, with a high of 58 percent of normal for the month of June.