Environment

The Forecast That Could Melt The North Pole

December 31st 2015

By:
Alex Mierjeski

The same storm system that brought unusually strong tornadoes to Texas in December is now bringing its oddities to the North Pole, where the temperature hit a balmy 43 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday — 10 degrees above freezing and about 60 degrees warmer than usual, according to temperature averages.

The news has so far prompted a flurry of doomsday-sounding news reports and for good reason: when the storm system centers itself over Iceland, a region shrouded in inky, 24-hour darkness in the winter months, it could bring the temperature above freezing for only the second time on record there. Generally, the dead of winter in the globe's northern cap passes with temperatures around 20 degrees below zero.

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You can see the system in this global wind map simulator, in the top right hand corner.

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The low-pressure system, which could break into the top five most powerful storms on record in that area of the North Atlantic, will bring in mild air all the way from the tropical waters of the Atlantic. As Mashable reports, while 20-30 degree fluctuations are more or less normal in the Arctic, changes in the 50-60 degree range is anomalous and extreme. The temperature has only reached or exceeded 32 Fahrenheit three times since 1948, according to meteorologist and journalist Bob Henson.

The unusual temperatures come at a crucial time for winter ice buildup in the Arctic, where earlier this year, scientists with the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported the fourth lowest extent of coverage on record. Ice buildup in winter months is especially important since warming temperatures melt ice during the rest of the year, contributing to sea level rise, according to NASA.

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The storm system is expected to continue on, touching down with high winds and heavy rain in the United Kingdom this week, where flooding has already caused evacuations in some areas.