The Arctic was already having a rough autumn, but things took a sharp turn into crazy town this week, with temperatures across much of the Arctic ocean measuring some 20C above normal.
Image: Brennan Linsley/AP
A report out by The Washington Post details the astonishingly spring-like weather gripping our planet’s far north, at a time when the Arctic is supposed to be rapidly gaining sea ice as polar night descends. Instead, sea ice is lower for this time of year than it has been since satellite record-keeping began, ice growth is sluggish if not stalled and the air temperatures are, frankly, nuts.
Here’s what a few Arctic climate experts had to say on Twitter this week:
— Daniel Swain (@Weather_West) November 16, 2016
Daily temperature anomalies at Vize, Island, Russia (79°N/76°E). Temps running 25°F-30°F above norm. Chart courtesy Dr. Richard James. pic.twitter.com/blX4hJOyBA
— Brian Brettschneider (@Climatologist49) November 17, 2016
— Zack Labe (@ZLabe) November 14, 2016
A combination of factors appears to be contributing to the hot flash, including elevated sea surface temperatures across the Arctic, and a kinky jet stream funnelling hot air northward, particularly over northern-central Canada, Alaska and the Chukchi Sea. At the same time, odd jet stream behaviour seems to have helped push an extremely cold air mass over Siberia.
Weather changes in a snap, and, as Julienne Stroeve of the National Snow and Ice Data Center told Gizmodo recently, it’s too early to say whether this latest spate of meteorological weirdness portends another record low winter for Arctic sea ice. Perhaps the jet stream will settle down and weather patterns up north will get back to normal soon. Still, in a year that’s been breaking records left and right, it’s getting rather difficult to remember what normal is.
Temperature anomalies in October 2016. Image: NASA