Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Another Weird Heat Wave Coming To Arctic, Grounding Santa's Sleigh?

Record warmth in the Arctic is expeted in the
next several days as this global map shows.
Iage is GFS modeling via the University of Maine
Climate re-analyzer 
For the second winter in a row, forecasters are expected a bizarre warm spell up in the Arctic that could bring temperatures to near the freezing point right around the North Pole.

In the darkness of winter, the Arctic is normally a wicked frigid place. It's usually way, way below zero and pretty damn inhospitable.

But over the next few days, temperatures at the North Pole could be very similar to those here where I am in Vermont.

The immediate cause of the likely upcoming Arctic heat wave is a strong storm near Greenland that will pull warm air up toward the Arctic.

Relatively warm air sometimes does get pushed into the area around the North Pole if the wind is right, but I'm talking single numbers and teens above zero. Not near 32 degrees. That's something like 40 to 50 degrees warmer than normal.

In this case, there's more open water in the Arctic than usual and less ice. The ice tends to act as a buffer to chill many incoming bursts of warm air, but with the relative lack of ice, this frozen buffer isn't nearly as effective as it ought to be.

Many scientists are saying this has the fingerprints on climate change on it. As you've read here previously, the Arctic has been particularly toasty warm this year. 2016 will end up by far. Temperatures in the Arctic in November and December were especially hot.

That's in part because of the relative lack of sea ice up there. Starting in early autumn, the amount and thickness of sea ice in the Arctic expands greatly as winter sets in. That expansion continues into the spring.

This year, the ice has indeed gotten more extensive day by day as winter progresses, but the process has not been nearly as fast as usual. In fact, some of the sea ice started to melt back for a few days in November, which is a super, super rare occurence.

Scientists tell The Guardian newspaper that the only explanation for the extreme warmth in the Arctic is global warming. Oh, sure they get spells of relatively warm air up there, but not like this.

There's data that shows big winter warm surges have pushed into the high Arctic on average twice a decade since at least the 1950s and probably well before that. But the extreme nature of the warmth is what fascinates and worries scientists.

Scientists are also still trying to figure out whether the surges of warm air into the Arctic are becoming more frequent, says the Washington Post. 

The fact that this is the second year in a row the temperature will have flirted with 32 degrees near the North Pole is doubly shocking.

The fact that the cold air was displaced from the Arctic, possibly due to warm Arctic seas, the cold air that's normally at the North Pole has to get shoved somewhere. In November, it settled over northern Asia and Siberia, which had recofd cold weather.

Eventually, some of that frigid air sloshed into North America, helping to cause a spate of record cold in the middle of the United States last weekend. 

The cold air again shoved into Siberia, and may find its way into the United States in the form of another spell of brutal colld air in January.

I said maybe on that one. Time will tell.

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