The winter solstice was Wednesday but the darkness is not bringing the cold to the North Pole. Instead, a December heat wave is forecasted for the Arctic as temperatures are expected to soar up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for this time of year, nearing the freezing point of 32 degrees. Last December, temperatures spiked even higher in the Arctic than what is predicted over the next few days, passing the melting point. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 2016 remains on track to be the hottest year on record.
In early December, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that average Arctic sea ice for November set a record low, leading to the loss of 19,000 square miles of ice over five days and potentially contributing to this week’s projected high temperatures because depleted sea ice cover east of the Nordic Sea helps create a channel for warmer air to flow north.
A new study in the journal Science connects the retreat of Arctic sea ice to cumulative anthropogenic CO2 emissions since 1850. Climate scientists analyzed the Arctic heat wave and determined that human-induced climate change is making November and December temperature spikes in the North Pole more frequent.
Soaring Arctic temperatures and rapid sea ice melt are impacting weather patterns across the world, according to climate experts. The melting Arctic weakens the jet stream, allowing for warmer air to move north and colder air to move south. The jet stream becomes slower and wavier, sometimes getting stuck in place — a situation that can lead to more extreme weather events.
“Temperatures in the Arctic have been particularly high,” World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said of the WMO provisional statement on the climate in 2016. “Arctic sea ice was exceptionally low, especially during early 2016 and the October-December re-freezing period. Antarctic ice extent was also the lowest on record in November, in contrast to the trend of recent years. What happens at the Poles does not stay at the Poles but impacts weather patterns on a hemispheric scale.”
Images via NOAA