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Computer model simulation showing smoke from Siberian wildfires drifting across the Pole, into North America.

A scorching heat wave has swept across Scandinavia, breaking all-time heat records into the Arctic Circle. Meanwhile, Sweden is facing a major wildfire outbreak, and the forests of Siberia are ablaze after weeks of extreme heat.

Why it matters: The heat wave and wildfires are causing evacuations and threatening communities in Sweden, where the area burned already exceeds that of the average fire season by thousands of acres, per the Copernicus Emergency Management Service. Plus, the wildfire smoke is hitching a ride on mid-to-upper atmospheric winds to as far away as the U.S.

Temperatures climbed into the 90s Fahrenheit above the Arctic Circle on Tuesday and Wednesday, and remained unusually high again on Thursday. The overnight low temperature in Makkaur, Finland on Thursday morning was a balmy 25.2°C, or 77.3°F. According to meteorologist Etienne Kapikian, this may be a new record for the Arctic.

The wildfires burning across Sweden during this stretch of hot, dry weather is unprecedented in modern times, according to The Weather Channel. In Sweden, many have been evacuated due to the fires. Thousands more acres have gone up in smoke so far this summer compared to an average year, with satellite maps showing dozens of hotspots indicating active blazes.

All-time high temperature records have fallen in Finland, Norway, and Sweden this week.

  • Evenes, Norway, hit 32.2°C, or 90°F, on Wednesday.
  • Katterjokk, Sweden, hit 29.3°C, or 84.7°F, according to records compiled by Weather Underground.
  • Rovaniemi, Finland, set its all-time highest temperature on record both Tuesday and Wednesday, at 32.2°C, or 90.0°F.

The big picture: The heat wave gripping Scandinavia is the latest in a series of heat domes that have dominated weather across the Northern Hemisphere this spring and summer, shattering temperature milestones. It's already resulted in the hottest overnight minimum temperature ever recorded on Earth.

  • In northern Siberia, temperatures have also soared into the 90s, resulting in a more active wildfire season than normal. According to NASA, the smoke plumes from these fires has traveled thousands of miles, resulting in red-tinged sunsets in Canada and the U.S. On July 3, 2018, NASA scientists tracked smoke from a cluster of fires in Sakha Province as it travelled more than 5,000 miles in just 11 days.
  • According to Hiren Jethva, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Russia's summer fires have been more intense this year than in the past. Satellite data shows that Central Russia saw 7,200 fires during the first half of July, about four times as many fires as detected during the same period between 2013 and 2017.

Be smart: The extreme heat and wildfire outbreaks are consistent with what scientists expect from a combination of natural variability and human-caused global warming. The Arctic has been warming at more than twice the rate of the rest of the world.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Several states report zero COVID deaths for the first time in months — CDC says schools should still universally require masks and physical distancing.
  2. Politics: New York to lift mask mandate for vaccinated people — CDC director says politics didn't play a role in abrupt mask policy shift.
  3. Vaccines: Sanofi, GSK COVID vaccine shows strong immune response in phase 2 trials — Vaccine-hesitant Americans cite inaccurate side effects — 600,000 kids between 12 and 15 have received Pfizer dose since FDA authorization.
  4. Business: How retailers are responding to the latest CDC guidance — Delta to require all new employees be vaccinated — Target, CVS and other stores ease mask requirements after CDC guidance.
  5. World: World's largest vaccine maker expects to resume exports by end of 2021 — Biden administration to send 20 million U.S.-authorized vaccine doses abroad.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
2 hours ago - World

Scoop: Biden to waive sanctions on company in charge of Nord Stream 2

Angela Merkel (left) with Vladimir Putin. Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images

The Biden administration will waive sanctions on the corporate entity and CEO overseeing the construction of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline into Germany, according to two sources briefed on the decision.

Why it matters: The decision indicates the Biden administration is not willing to compromise its relationship with Germany over this pipeline, and underscores the difficulties President Biden faces in matching actions to rhetoric on a tougher approach to Russia.

Prosecutor: Fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. was "justified"

Khalil Ferebee (C), the son of Andrew Brown Jr., and attorneys Bakari Sellers (L) and Harry Daniel (R) at a May 11 news conference in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

A North Carolina prosecutor said Tuesday that the death of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man fatally shot by sheriff's deputies last month, was "tragic" but "justified," due to the immediate threat officers believed Brown posed.

Why it matters: The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into Brown's death. Police in Elizabeth City shot him five times, including in the back of his head, according to an independent autopsy report released by family attorneys last month.