Arctic temperatures soar 45 degrees above normal, flooded by extremely mild air on all sides
By Jason Samenow
The temperature difference from normal over the Arctic averaged over the next five days in the GFS model forecast. (University of Maine Climate Reanalyzer)
21 February, 2018
While the Eastern United States simmers in some of its warmest February weather ever recorded, the Arctic is also stewing in temperatures more than 45 degrees above normal. This latest huge temperature spike in the Arctic is another striking indicator of its rapidly transforming climate.
On Monday and Tuesday, the northernmost weather station in the world, Cape Morris Jesup at the northern tip of Greenland, experienced more than 24 hours of temperatures above freezing according to the Danish Meteorological Institute.
“How weird is that?” tweeted Robert Rohde, a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley. “Well it’s Arctic winter. The sun set in October and won’t be seen again until March. Perpetual night, but still above freezing.”
This thaw occurred as a pulse of extremely mild air shot through the Greenland Sea.
Warm air is spilling into the Arctic from all sides. On the opposite end of North America, abnormally mild air also poured over northern Alaska on Tuesday, where the temperature in Utqiaġvik, previously known as Barrow, soared to a record high of 31 degrees (minus-1 Celsius), 40 degrees (22 Celsius) above normal.
The warmth over Alaska occurred as almost one-third of the ice covering the Bering Sea off Alaska’s West Coast vanished in just over a week during the middle of February, InsideClimateNews reported.
Temperatures over the entire Arctic north of 80 degrees latitude have averaged about 10 degrees (6 Celsius) above normal since the beginning of the calendar year, sometimes spiking over 25 degrees (14 Celsius) above normal (the normal temperature is around minus-22, or minus-30 Celsius).
These kinds of temperature anomalies in the Arctic have become commonplace in winter in the past few years. “[T]he *persistence* of the above average temperatures is quite striking,” tweeted Zack Labe, a PhD candidate in climate science at the University of California at Irvine.
While there is always large variability in the #Arctic winter, the *persistence* of the above average temperatures is quite striking in the last few years.
Some of the most extreme warmth of the year so far is forecast to flood the Arctic in coming days, with a number of areas seeing temperatures that exceed 45 degrees (25 Celsius) above normal (dark pink shades below) and up to 60 degrees (34 Celsius) above normal. The mercury at the North Pole could well rise above freezing between Thursday and Sunday.
This next batch of abnormally warm air is forecast to shoot the gap between Greenland and northern Europe through the Greenland and Barents seas. Similar circumstances occurred in December 2016, when the temperature at the North Pole last flirted with the melting point in the dark, dead of winter. We documented similarly large jumps in temperature in November 2016 and December 2015.
An analysis from Climate Central said these extreme winter warming events in the Arctic, once rare, could become commonplace if the planet continues warming. A study in the journal Nature published in 2016 found the decline of sea ice in the Arctic “is making it easier for weather systems to transport this heat polewards.”
Arctic sea ice was at its lowest extent on record this past January, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“I have sailed boats through [the Arctic Sea] but never this time of year,” tweeted David Thoreson, an Arctic photographer. “It’s amazing to watch this unfold.”
The record-setting temperatures and lack of ice is exactly what scientists have projected over the Arctic for years and it’s fundamentally changing the landscape.
“Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades,” NOAA concluded in its Arctic Report Card, published in December.