For the 2nd consecutive year, Svalbard measured its warmest summer on record. The summer concluded with an average temperature of 7.8°C at Svalbard Airport in Longyearbyen, 0.4°C above the record set in 2022. The recorded average summer temperature is 2.3°C above the summer average of the 1991-2020 climatological period (5.5°C). Besides its warmest summer on record, Svalbard Airport also measured the warmest month on record.
Svalbard has been breaking temperature record after temperature record this summer. July was the warmest month on record, while also being the first month on record to ever reach an average temperature above 10°C (10.1°C). In comparison, the 1991-2020 climatological norm (that already warmed significantly compared to previous climatological norms) for July is 7.0°C.
Breaking last year’s record, 2023 was the warmest summer on record on Svalbard.
Svalbard experiences warmest august on record
August continued the trend, with many days at the start of the month experiencing temperatures well above 10 degrees. Overall, August concluded with an average temperature of 8.4°C, almost a full degree above the previous record of 7.5°C set 2002 (1991-2020 norm: 6.0°C). June was slightly less extreme, with an average temperature of 4.7°C against a monthly norm of 3.6°C norm, but still made it well into the top 10.
The top-10 warmest summer months (June, July and August) in Longyearbyen. 2023 is on top of many lists this summer.
The month of August has been warming with approximately 0.5°C/decade since 1970. Nevertheless, August 2023 is still record shattering.
Top 10 dominated by recent years
Remarkably, the top 10 warmest summers and summer months are predominantly from the current century, even though measurements already began in the late 1800s. The top 10 warmest July months contains only 3 years from before the current century (the top 5 is exclusively from this century), while June and August only see 2 and 1 year(s) from before this century in their top 10, respectively.
Svalbard: one of fastest warming places in the world
Svalbard is one of the fastest warming places in the world. Summers in Longyearbyen have been warming with a rate of approximately 0.5°C per decade since the 1970’s. The yearly average temperature has increased by 4°C (5 times faster than the global average temperature increase) since 1970. Winters have been warming even faster and are nowadays approximately a whopping 7°C warmer compared to the early 70’s.
Below you can find some recent pictures from Svalbard. Unlike other summers, there are barely any snow patches left. The (mostly snow-free!) glaciers are having a hard time.
Svalbard is remarkably green this summer. Patches of snow are hard to find. Photocredits: Anna Sartell
Arctic amplification, change in atmospheric and ocean currents
The reasons behind the quicker warming in the Svalbard region are numerous. First and foremost, akin to the rest of the Arctic, it’s affected by what’s called Arctic amplification. This is the phenomenon that the Arctic reacts faster on changes in the global temperature than the rest of the world. This is the consequence of several positive feedback loops such as the ice-albedo feedback. For instance, as reflective sea ice melts, it gives way to a more absorptive sea surface, which in turn amplifies the warming.
Besides this, Svalbard is strongly affected by shifts in ocean currents, changes in wind patterns, and a process known as Atlantification, where warmer waters from the Atlantic penetrate further into the Svalbard region and its fjords. Additionally, the path of storms has shifted northward, causing low-pressure systems that once mostly passed south and east of Svalbard to now traverse more frequently along its western side. This change leads to a more regular mild southwesterly airflow on the eastern side of these pressure systems. All of these elements combined contribute to the accelerated warming observed in this Arctic Archipelago.