Thursday, February 22, 2018

Temperatures in the Arctic Climb 45º Above Normal

In another indication of how climate change is having an impact on the polar regions of our planet, the Arctic is currently experiencing some of its warmest weather ever for this time of year. According to reports from the Cape Morris Jesup weather station in Greenland – the northernmost of its kind in the world – temperatures soared 45ºF higher than normal. And while this spike has been unusual, it appears to be part of a growing trend.

Since the first of the year, temperatures in the Arctic have been about 10ºF (6ºC) above normal, with regular spikes of 25ºF (14ºC). Typically, the temperatures should hover around -22ºF (-30ºC) in January and February, but that hasn't been the case for most of 2018 so far. The warming trend has gotten so widespread in fact that temperatures are expected to climb above freezing at the North Pole starting today and running through the weekend.

These conditions are pretty much what climate scientists have been warning us about for decades, with fears of the arctic ice retreating now becoming a true concern. For the first time ever in January, a tanker ship was able to navigate the Northeast Passage above Russia without the assistance of an icebreaker. While the ship did encounter plenty of sea ice, it wasn't thick enough to cause concerns.

Typically this is the time of the year when the pack ice is at its thickest, making it a real challenge to navigate through this part of the world. But thinning ice will mean these waterways will be wide open during the warmer months, which simply wasn't he case just a few years ago.

Last week I wrote a piece wondering where all the North Pole skiers have gone. With the ice getting this thin even in the heart of winter, it is easy to see why no one wants to take on the challenge of skiing to the top of the world. Without a solid surface to ski on, they would end up spending most of their time in rafts and dry suits while swimming across open leads of water. What was already an incredibly difficult journey is now only getting that much harder to complete.

As if this news wasn't bad enough, in December the annual Arctic Report Card was released by NOAA, with researchers coming to the conclusion that the “Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades.” That should be sobering news indeed.


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