The Arctic Is Seriously Weird Right Now

2016-11-30T10:05:47+00:00 November 30, 2016|
Arctic ice. (Credit: Wikimedia commons)

(Click to enlarge) Arctic ice. (Credit: Wikimedia commons)

The sun set on the North Pole more than a month ago, not to rise again until spring. Usually that serves as a cue for sea ice to spread its frozen tentacles across the Arctic Ocean. But in the depths of the polar night, a strange thing started to happen in mid-October. Sea ice growth slowed to a crawl and even started shrinking for a bit.

(From Scientific American / by Brian Kahn)– Intense warmth in both the air and oceans is driving the mini-meltdown at a time when Arctic sea ice should be rapidly growing. This follows last winter, when temperatures saw a huge December spike.

Even in an age where climate change is making outliers—lowest maximum sea ice extent set two years in a row, the hottest year on record set three years in a row, global coral bleaching entering a third year—the norm, what’s happening in the Arctic right now stands out for just how outlandish it is.

“I’ve never seen anything like it this last year and half,” Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said.

The latest twist in the Arctic sea ice saga began in mid-October. Temperatures stayed stuck in their September range, pausing sea ice growth. By the end of the month, the Arctic was missing a chunk of ice the size of the eastern U.S.

The oddness continued into November. A large area of the Arctic saw temperatures as much as 36°F above normal, further slowing Arctic sea ice growth and even turning it around for a few days. In other words, it was so warm in the Arctic that despite the lack of sunlight, sea ice actually disappeared.

“The ridiculously warm temperatures in the Arctic during October and November this year are off the charts over our 68 years of measurements,” Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who studies the Arctic, said.

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