Frighteningly ordinary: Record high temperatures in 2016 nothing new for Longyearbyen or Earth

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At this point it’s not really news to set a record-high temperature for a month or year since it’s an ongoing thing in Longyearbyen and much of the rest of the world. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less alarming for experts analyzing the long-term trends after the town’s warmest and wettest year in recorded history.

The average temperature for the year was minus 0.1 degrees Celsius, or 6.5 degrees Celsius above normal, according to Bernt Lie, a weather statistician who operates the website Vær og Vind (Weather and Wind). In addition, a record 310 millimeters of precipitation fell during the year, 63.2 percent more than normal and soundly topping the previous record of 267.9 millimeters in 2012.

“In July, October and November there was record heat,” he wrote.

Temperatures at Svalbard Airport in December were 7.4 degrees Celsius above normal, the 73rd straight month of above average temperatures, according to Lie.

Despite the longer-term records, there was only one daily high-temperature record
of 10.3 degrees set in October. There was also only one low-temperature daily record of minus 18.5 degrees set on dec. 8.

“So few coldest days has not occurred since measures began at the airport in 1975,” Lie wrote.

The situation in Longyearbyen is hardly unique. The average global temperature record also set a new high in 2016, as did virtually every region of the Arctic.

“The year 2016 will break the global temperature record that was set in 2015, which broke the record that was set in 2014,” Noah S. Diffenbaugh, a professor of the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University, told the San Jose Mercury News.

“This reality is not going to simply disappear by denying that (climate change) exists, or by dismissing it as a hoax, or by claiming that it is too complicated to understand or to address.”

Lie, in his summary of Longyearbyen’s weather statistics for 2016, called the trend here a “frightening development.”

“Over the last 26 years it has become more than 2.2 degrees (exactly 2.28 degrees) warmer in this populated part of the Arctic,” he wrote. “Continued temperature rise at the same pace in Longyearbyen until the year 2050 will provide a 30-year average temperature for the year of minus 1.4 degrees…or a rise of more than five degrees in 60 years.”

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