It is an alarming 50 degrees warmer than normal.
Temperatures in the North Pole have risen above freezing as of Wednesday (December 30), due to a freak storm that also brought deadly tornadoes to the American southwest last week. This storm is now bringing strong winds and hurricane-like low pressures to the Arctic, which is causing it to warm alarmingly.
From Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning, Iceland experienced a pressure drop of 54 millibars in just 18 hours — tripling the criteria for “bomb” cyclogenesis (usually dropping one millibar per hour in 24 hours) — what meteorologists use to describe a rapidly intensifying midlatitude storm.
So why is this storm warming the Arctic so much? Since it is such a strong low pressure, it is sucking the air from middle latitudes, which are currently experiencing well above average temperatures, to the Arctic — leading to temperatures above freezing (about 33-35 degrees Fahrenheit), which is approximately 50 degrees hotter than average.
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It is no surprise that 2015 is the warmest year ever recorded, however this level of warmth in the Arctic is unprecedented. At this time of year, temperatures are usually around -20 degrees Fahrenheit. The storm managed to make it’s way up the jet stream — an upper atmosphere air current — making the region extra warm.
Although there are no permanent weather stations at the North Pole, weather forecast models are using data from satellites and surface observations to estimate the conditions. According to data from the Global Forecast System (GFS) model, on Wednesday morning, temperatures over a large area near the North Pole were between 30 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit, and for a brief moment, they were above the 32-degree threshold at exactly 90 degrees North.
It will be awhile before scientists can confirm if there is a correlation between this storm and human-induced climate change. However, climate writer Robert Scribbler believes that the strong warming in the North Pole resembles the southern incursions of the “polar vortex” that has been seen in recent winters. A dip in the jet stream can send polar air southward, but it can also result in pushing warmer conditions up into the Arctic. Not only are these changes related to climate change, he writes, it is a sign that something in the atmosphere has gone “dreadfully wrong.”
2015 continues to be a year of weird weather.
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