In December, a team of U.S. government scientists released a “report card” on the Arctic. Their top conclusion was pithy, comprehensive, and bleak. The Arctic, they said, “shows no sign of returning to [the] reliably frozen region of recent past decades.”
Now, it’s almost like the environment is trying to prove them right.
Though the sun hasn’t shone on the central Arctic for more than four months, the region is currently gripped by historic, record-breaking warmth.
On Sunday, the temperature at the North Pole rose to about the melting point, and parts of the Arctic were more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal.
A handful of Arctic scientists spent the weekend on Twitter, trying to put the episode into context:
Wow… truly a remarkable event ongoing right now in the #Arctic.
— Zack Labe (@ZLabe) February 23, 2018
To understand how strange the recent Arctic weather is, it’s worth looking at a place called Cape Morris Jesup.
Cape Morris Jesup is a barren and uninhabited promontory above the Arctic Ocean. Just 450 miles from the North Pole, it is Greenland’s northernmost point.
The sun hasn’t shone on Cape Morris Jesup since October 11. These should be among the coldest weeks of the year for the cape.
But over the weekend, the weather station there recorded an air temperature of 43 degrees Fahrenheit, more than 50 degrees above normal for this time of year.
The weird warmth was not limited to that one spot. Station Nord, a scientific research station in Greenland nearly 200 miles to the southeast, recorded temperatures of about 36.5 degrees Fahrenheit this weekend.
These kinds of on-the-ground observations aren’t available for the North Pole.
But by combing satellite observations and other temperature data, the top U.S. forecast model estimated that temperatures at the North Pole rose as high as 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
At this time of year, sea ice should still be growing and expanding. But recent satellite observations have shown that two large gaps have somehow opened up in the ice. The first is in the Chukchi Sea, near Russia.
How rare is this kind of Arctic warmth? Climate scientists say they have seen events similar to this one happen before, but that the size and intensity of the warmth made it really notable.
Please like, share and tweet this article.
Pass it on: Popular Science