World

The Arctic 36 Degrees F Warmer Than It Should Be

| by Zach Cohen

The northern-most corner of the planet is experiencing unseasonably high temperatures, and is setting low records for ice growth that have climate commentators concerned.

The Arctic is experiencing "polar night," a time of year when the sun doesn't rise, and temperatures should be plummeting, according to The Washington Post. But after an initial steep drop in late September, data from the Danish Meteorological Institute shows temperatures stabilizing, fluctuating through October and early November, and then rapidly rising again to August levels.

Ph.D. student Zack Labe, who studies the Arctic, tweeted an image of the chart above on Nov. 16 with the caption: "Today’s latest #Arctic mean temperature continues to move the wrong direction . . . up. Quite an anomalous spike!"

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UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain added in a tweet: "Despite onset of #PolarNight, temperatures near #NorthPole increasing. Extraordinary situation right now in #Arctic, w/record low #seaice."

The National Snow and Ice Data Center says the level of sea ice growth is at "the lowest extent in the satellite record." The map below from NSIDC shows the area currently occupied by sea ice, as well as the median ice edge for the period 1981 to 2010.

As Mashable's Andrew Freedman put it: "Something strange and unnerving is happening in the Arctic: A chunk of sea ice bigger than the states of Alaska and Texas combined was missing from the sea ice cover at the end of October."

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Rutgers University Arctic specialist Jennifer Francis told 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."

She added, "The extreme behavior of the Arctic in 2016 seems to be in no hurry to quit."

Judah Cohen, a forecaster at Atmospheric and Environmental Research says the warm Arctic temperatures might be linked to another weather anomaly plaguing Siberia: record breaking cold temperatures, visualized in this map from he University of Maine.

There have been 138 new daily record lows across Russia since the beginning of November. Schools in central Russia had to close when temperatures dropped to negative 33 degrees Fahrenheit. In Kazakhstan's capital, which has an average November temperature is about 28 degrees Fahrenheit, temperatures haven't risen above zero since Nov. 14.

According to Cohen, there was record breaking snowfall over Eurasia in October. "The extensive snow cover leads to cooling temperatures, and favors the northwestward expansion of the Siberian high-pressure center," he says.

Labe links Cohen's findings to the conditions in the Arctic: "The record-breaking ridge over Eurasia in conjunction with a low pressure in the North Pacific has enabled warm air to flood the Arctic from both the Pacific and Atlantic."

Sources: The Washington Post (2), NSIDC, Mashable / Photo Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center via Mashable

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