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Yakutsk, Yakutia, Russia. (Source: WikiMedia Commons)

Yakutsk, Yakutia, Russia. (Source: WikiMedia Commons)

Global warming will cause temperatures in Yakutia to rise four times faster than the rest of the planet, according to a leading climate change scientist.

The capital city of Yakutia (also known as the Sakha Republic), Yakutsk, is located less than 300 miles from the Arctic Circle and is considered the coldest city in the world. In January, the average high is -34 degrees Fahrenheit, and Mother Nature Network reports that the record low is -81.4 degrees F.

To say it is a cold place is an understatement, but according to Professor Oleg Anisimov of the State Hydrological Institute in St. Petersburg, that will soon be changing.

In a lecture delivered in Yakutia, Prof. Anisimov predicted that global warming will cause the temperature to increase by about seven degrees Celsius by the next century. Since 1880, the planet has warmed by an average 0.85°C; by comparison, said Anisimov, Yakutia has warmed by 3.5°C.

“[G]lobal warming here is four times faster,” he said. “According to our forecasts, the temperature in the north will increase by six to seven degrees by the 2100s. For several reasons, the Arctic climate change is more intense and faster than in other regions. There is a reduction in snow and ice cover, which has a protective function.

“On average over the last year the minimum area of sea ice has decreased from 5.4 to 5.3 million square kilometers. Over the past 10 years, the reduction of sea ice in the Arctic was by 13.7 percent.”

In general, the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet – so quickly, in fact, that the loss of Arctic sea ice is canceling out the current record growth of sea ice in Antarctica.

Anisimov, who was honored for his work with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, has been delivering a series of lectures about global warming’s impact on the Russian North. While he admitted that the warming will make winters less harsh in the Sakha Republic, he warned that residents “will have to pay with potential problems in agriculture.”

Such problems include the formation of a solid ice crust on the snow, which will make it difficult for horses, deer and other animals to reach the food beneath it. Anisimov also warned that the warming may invite new, previously unknown species into the region.

“Of greater concern,” he continued, “is the condition of permafrost and the impact of global warming on that. The question of permafrost, climate change, and melting glaciers are the most pressing problems of today.”

Occurring in high latitudes and comprising almost a quarter of the land in the northern hemisphere, permafrost is soil that has been frozen for at least two years. Some two-thirds of Russia’s land is within the permafrost zone, and its gradual erosion has already caused damage to the country’s infrastructure. (Also, about one-third of the planet’s soil carbon is stored in the frozen organic matter in permafrost – meaning the more it melts, the worse global warming will get.)

Yamal Crater

Crater discovered in Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula.

In the last 20 years, rising temperatures in the region have caused the permafrost to melt, damaging buildings and bridges. According to The Siberian Times, in the past 14 years, overall temperatures in northwest Siberia have risen by at least two degrees Celsius.

Experts have theorized that this rapid warming may be to blame for the mysterious and massive holes that have been opening up in Russia’s remote lands. Thick permafrost is being melted by the warming air and leading to the accumulation of explosive gases and eventual eruptions. Three such holes were discovered in Siberia last year and recent satellite imagery has discovered as many as 20 more in northern Russia.

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