Read

User menu

Search form

North Pole Surges Above Freezing in the Dead of Winter, Stunning Scientists

North Pole Surges Above Freezing in the Dead of Winter, Stunning Scientists
Fri, 3/2/2018 - by Jason Samenow
This article originally appeared on The Washington Post

The sun won’t rise at the North Pole until March 20, and it’s normally close to the coldest time of year, but an extraordinary and possibly historic thaw swelled over the tip of the planet this weekend. Analyses show that the temperature warmed to the melting point as an enormous storm pumped an intense pulse of heat through the Greenland Sea.

Temperatures may have soared as high as 35 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) at the pole, according to the U.S. Global Forecast System model. While there are no direct measurements of temperature there, Zack Labe, a climate scientist working on his PhD at the University of California at Irvine, confirmed that several independent analyses showed “it was very close to freezing,” which is more than 50 degrees (30 degrees Celsius) above normal.

The warm intrusion penetrated right through the heart of the Central Arctic, Labe said. The temperature averaged for the entire region north of 80 degrees latitude spiked to its highest level ever recorded in February. The average temperature was more than 36 degrees (20 degrees Celsius) above normal. “No other warm intrusions were very close to this,” Labe said in an interview, describing a data set maintained by the Danish Meteorological Institute that dates back to 1958. “I was taken by surprise how expansive this warm intrusion was.”

Such extreme warm intrusions in the Arctic, once rare, are becoming more routine, research has shown. A study published last July found that since 1980, these events are becoming more frequent, longer-lasting and more intense.

“Previously this was not common,” said lead author of the study Robert Graham, from the Norwegian Polar Institute, in an email. “It happened in four years between 1980-2010, but has now occurred in four out of the last five winters.”

Graham explained that these warming events are related to the decline of winter sea ice in the Arctic, noting that January’s ice extent was the lowest on record. “As the sea ice is melting and thinning, it is becoming more vulnerable to these winter storms,” he explained. “The thinner ice drifts more quickly and can break up into smaller pieces. The strong winds from the south can push the ice further north into the Central Arctic, exposing the open water and releasing heat to the atmosphere from the ocean.”

Scientists were shocked in recent days to discover open water north of Greenland, an area normally covered by old, very thick ice. “This has me more worried than the warm temps in the Arctic right now,” tweeted Mike MacFerrin, an ice sheet specialist at the University of Colorado.

Such warm water is appearing to have an effect on air temperatures. At the north tip of Greenland, about 400 miles to the south of the North Pole, the weather station Cape Morris Jesup has logged a record-crushing 61 hours above freezing so far this calendar year. The previous record, dating to 1980, was 16 hours through the end of April in 2011, according to Robert Rohde, a physicist at Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit that conducts temperature analysis. At one point, the temperature was as high as 43 degrees (6.1 degrees Celsius).

Kent Moore, a professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Toronto, who published a study in 2016 linking the loss of sea ice to these warm events in the Arctic, said a number of factors may have contributed to the latest warming episode.

For one, he said, recent storms have tracked more toward the North Pole through the Greenland Sea, drawing heat directly north from lower latitudes, rather than through a more circuitous route over the Barents Sea. He also said ocean temperatures in the Greenland Sea are warmer than normal. “The warmth we’re seeing in the Greenland Sea is definitely enhancing the warm events we’re seeing,” Moore said. “I’m surprised how warm it is, but I am not sure why.”

The rise in Arctic temperatures is probably also tied to a sudden warming of the stratosphere, the atmospheric layer about 30,000 feet high — above where most weather happens — that occurred several weeks ago, Moore said. Why these stratospheric warming events happen is poorly understood, as are their consequences. However, they tend to rearrange warm and cold air masses, and this latest one has also been linked not only to the Arctic warmth but also to the “Beast from the East” cold spell over Europe.

Moore stopped short of saying that the warm spikes observed in the Arctic in recent years are a sure sign that they are becoming a fixture of the winter Arctic climate; more data is needed, he cautioned.Whether a blip or indicative of a new normal, scientists have uniformly expressed disbelief at the current Arctic temperatures and the state of the sea ice.

“This is a crazy winter,” said Alek Petty, a climate scientist at NASA, in an interview. “I don’t think we’re sensationalizing it.”

“It’s never been this extreme,” Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute, told Reuters.

Originally published by the Washington Post

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Restoring Internet Freedom Order, FCC rules, net neutrality, Internet freedom, fast line, Big Telecom, telecommunications industry, Ajit Pai

Access matters, and unequal access can have onerous consequences for those who can’t afford the fast lane.

Brexit, Brexit opposition, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, no-deal Brexit

“This historic defeat will show that the government is deadlocked – and we now need to throw this back to the people and give them a final say," said Paul Butters of Best for Britain.

manosphere, incels, misogyny, black men, black women, racism, sexism, Black Manosphere

In response to the racism often targeted exclusively toward black men on majority white digital spaces, black males have created their own manosphere – where they rail against black women.

Act Out! [187] - How Police Are A Public Health Issue + Extinction Rebellion’s Move To Save Humanity

First up, Policing is a public health issue. Next, Extinction Rebellion wants to save humanity. Here's how they're going about it.

#MeToo, #MeTooIndia, male abusers, misogny, women coming forward, naming accusers, Indian feminist movement, Indian sex abusers, sexual abuse

It may have taken a full year for the #MeToo movement to reach India, but the storm has hit – and loudly.

Restoring Internet Freedom Order, FCC rules, net neutrality, Internet freedom, fast line, Big Telecom, telecommunications industry, Ajit Pai

Access matters, and unequal access can have onerous consequences for those who can’t afford the fast lane.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Medioimages/Photodisc/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

By doing away with single-family zoning, the city takes on high rent, long commutes, and racism in real estate in one fell swoop.

Brexit, Brexit opposition, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, no-deal Brexit

“This historic defeat will show that the government is deadlocked – and we now need to throw this back to the people and give them a final say," said Paul Butters of Best for Britain.

Protesters on Sunday in Katowice, which is hosting the UN climate conference. Photograph: Sadak Souici/Le Pictorium/Barcroft Images

The move shocked delegates at a UN conference in Poland as ministers flew in for the final week of climate talks.

rising emissions, climate catastrophe, Global Carbon Project, climate impacts, carbon emissions, carbon cuts

According to a new Global Carbon Project report, emissions are heading in the opposite direction to the deep cuts that are urgently needed to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

manosphere, incels, misogyny, black men, black women, racism, sexism, Black Manosphere

In response to the racism often targeted exclusively toward black men on majority white digital spaces, black males have created their own manosphere – where they rail against black women.

Posted 5 days 3 hours ago
#MeToo, #MeTooIndia, male abusers, misogny, women coming forward, naming accusers, Indian feminist movement, Indian sex abusers, sexual abuse

It may have taken a full year for the #MeToo movement to reach India, but the storm has hit – and loudly.

Posted 6 days 17 hours ago
Act Out! [187] - How Police Are A Public Health Issue + Extinction Rebellion’s Move To Save Humanity

First up, Policing is a public health issue. Next, Extinction Rebellion wants to save humanity. Here's how they're going about it.

Posted 5 days 16 hours ago
Minds, anti-Facebook, crypto social network, surveillance programs, social media addiction

Now is the time to defend the remnants of the Information Revolution. Take off the corporate gag, close the social media surveillance blinds, and shift.

Posted 5 days 3 hours ago
Yanis Varoufakis, Jane Sanders, Bernie Sanders, Sanders Institute, Progressive International, global left, populist movements, rising authoritarianism

"Our Progressive International will reclaim our communities, our cities, our countries, and our planet with a bold International New Deal that we will work, together, to deliver."

Posted 6 days 17 hours ago
Minds, anti-Facebook, crypto social network, surveillance programs, social media addiction

Now is the time to defend the remnants of the Information Revolution. Take off the corporate gag, close the social media surveillance blinds, and shift.

Act Out! [187] - How Police Are A Public Health Issue + Extinction Rebellion’s Move To Save Humanity

First up, Policing is a public health issue. Next, Extinction Rebellion wants to save humanity. Here's how they're going about it.

rising emissions, climate catastrophe, Global Carbon Project, climate impacts, carbon emissions, carbon cuts

According to a new Global Carbon Project report, emissions are heading in the opposite direction to the deep cuts that are urgently needed to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Yanis Varoufakis, Jane Sanders, Bernie Sanders, Sanders Institute, Progressive International, global left, populist movements, rising authoritarianism

"Our Progressive International will reclaim our communities, our cities, our countries, and our planet with a bold International New Deal that we will work, together, to deliver."

rising inequality, income inequality, global wealth, costs of inequality

Americans pay a steep price for not spreading their wealth around as well as other developed countries.