Something strange is going on in the Arctic circle right now. Because it’s Polar Night, the region has been experiencing days with no sun. Common sense would dictate that a lack of sun would result in colder temperatures. However, this isn’t what’s happening.
According to Arctic watchers, the region is experiencing temperatures higher than usual, and the amount of sea ice covering the polar ocean is at a record low. Zack Labe, a PhD student at the University of California at Irvine who studies the Arctic, tweeted an image showing that temperatures in the Arctic are reaching 20 °C (36 °F) higher than normal above 80 degrees North Latitude.
— Zack Labe (@ZLabe) November 15, 2016
The image in the tweet shows that temperatures were around -5 degrees Celsius instead of the typical -25 degrees Celsius.
Changing Seas and Winds
Experts are weighing in on the temperature spike.
Mark Serreze, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado found unusual temperatures in the sea. “There are some areas in the Arctic Ocean that are as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit above average now.” This situation leads to less sea-ice forming this time of the year, as measured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which is just 6.39 million km2 (2.47 million mi2), 28.52 percent less than the 1981-2010 average.
Jennifer Francis, an Arctic specialist at Rutgers University said in a statement for The Washington Post:
“The Arctic warmth is the result of a combination of record-low sea-ice extent for this time of year, probably very thin ice, and plenty of warm/moist air from lower latitudes being driven northward by a very wavy jet stream.”
Francis published a study in 2015 that shows how jet stream patterns are slowly shifting northward to the Arctic, leading to the warming of the region. “As emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated, therefore, the continued amplification of Arctic warming should favor an increased occurrence of extreme events caused by prolonged weather conditions,” the paper states.
These record-low sea levels and temperature spikes will surely add to the mounting evidence for climate change. There’s no denying it anymore.