Arctic heatwave hits world's northernmost settlement

MONTREAL - Temperatures hit a record high of 69.8 deg F (21 deg C) in Alert, the northernmost permanently inhabited spot on the planet less than 966km from the North Pole, the Canadian meteorology service said.

"It's quite phenomenal as a statistic; it's just one example among hundreds and hundreds of other records established by global warming," Dr Armel Castellan, a meteorologist at the Canadian environment ministry said on Tuesday (July 16).

The temperature was recorded on Sunday in Alert, a permanent military base on the 82nd parallel which intercepts Russian communications and which has been home to a weather station since 1950.

In October, a landmark United Nations report warned that time is running out to avert global disaster and that avoiding climate chaos will require an unprecedented transformation of society and the world economy.

Alert's record was marked at 69.8 deg F on Sunday and 68 deg F the following day.

"It's an absolute record; we've never seen that before," said Dr Castellan.

Such highs so far north are "completely staggering", he said, noting that "for a week-and-a-half we have had much higher temperatures than usual".

The previous record of 68 deg F was set on July 8, 1956, but since 2012, there have been several days where the temperature has risen to 66.2 deg F or 68 deg F at the base on the shore of the Arctic Ocean.

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The average daily temperature in Alert in July is 38 deg F (3 deg C), with average maximum temperatures of 43 deg F (6 deg C).

"It is not exaggerated to call it an Arctic heatwave," said senior climatologist David Phillips at Environment and Climate Change Canada, a government office.

"The north, from Yukon right to the Arctic islands, saw the second or third warmest spring on record."

Furthermore, Canadian government forecast models "are showing that that is going to continue through July and then into August and early September", he added.

The current heatwave is due to a high pressure front over Greenland, which is "quite exceptional" and feeds southerly winds on the Arctic Ocean, said Dr Castellan.

The Arctic is heating up three times faster than other parts of the planet, said Dr Castellan, stressing the need for a drastic reduction in carbon emissions.