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North Pole Region Predicted to Experience Another Instance of Above Freezing Temperatures as the Bering Sea Ice is Blasted Away

Those previously rare instances of above freezing temperatures in the Arctic north during winter time are happening more and more often.

(February 20 NASA satellite imagery shows Bering Sea with mostly open water as highly atypical above freezing temperatures drive far north. Note that patches of open water extend well into the Chukchi Sea. Image source: NASA.)

Just Monday and Tuesday of this week, Cape Jessup, Greenland — a mere 400 miles away from the North Pole — experienced above freezing temperatures for two days in a row. This following a February 5 warm air invasion that drove above 32 F temperatures to within 150 miles of this furthest northerly point in our Hemisphere even as, by February 20th, a warm air invasion relentlessly melted the Bering Sea’s typically frozen surface (see image above).

Far Above Average Temperatures Over Our Pole

It’s not just a case of warming near the pole itself. It’s the entire Arctic region above the 66 degree North Latitude line. Over the past few days, Arctic temperature anomalies have exceeded 6 degrees Celsius above the 1981 to 2010 baseline. A period that was already showing a serious warming trend.

(Insane levels of warmth relentlessly invade the Arctic during February — hammering the sea ice and wrecking havoc on local environments. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

For reference, 6 C warmer than normal daily readings for any large region of the Earth’s surface is a very serious temperature departure. And the Arctic is clearly feeling it as it suffers the lowest sea ice extent in our record keeping. The heat is meanwhile wreaking out of control harm on the Arctic environment — endangering key species like seals, walrus, puffins, and polar bears, setting off very rapid coastal erosion as storm waves grow taller, triggering far more extensive and powerful Arctic wildfires, and causing mass land subsidence and various harmful environmental feedbacks from permafrost thaw. It’s also causing Greenland’s massive glaciers to melt faster — contributing to an acceleration in the rate of global sea level rise.

The warm air has been invading primarily from the ocean zones in the Atlantic and the Pacific. Warm storms have frequently roared north through the Barents Sea and up the Greenland Strait near Svalbard. Massive blocking high pressure systems have shoved outlandishly warm temperatures through the Bering Sea on the Pacific side day after day, month after month.

Warm Air Invasions Clear Sea Ice During Winter

A recent warm air invasion has practically cleared the Bering Sea of ice. And the ice edge there is further withdrawn than it has ever been in its history. As we can see from the below animation, this crazy and rapid clearing of ice continues to drive further and further north — ushered in by a relentless invasion of warm air — during February. A time when Bering ice should be expanding, not contracting.

What’s causing such extreme polar weather? In two words — climate change. But drilling down, the details can actually get pretty complicated.

During recent winters, human-caused climate change has been driving temperatures into never-before-seen ranges over our northern pole. Increasingly, Sudden Stratospheric Warming events have been propelling warm air into the upper layers of the atmosphere. The Polar Vortex, which during winter relies on a column of sequestered cold air to maintain stability, is blown off-kilter as these upper level layers heat up. This, in turn, has generated extreme wave patterns in the winter Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream — enabling much warmer than usual temperatures to rocket northward.

An Ongoing Series of Warming Events

On December 30 of 2015, and enabled by a high amplitude Jet Stream wave, a powerful warm storm event pushed a strong wedge of warm, above freezing, air all the way across the 90 North Latitude line. Meanwhile, Jessup Greenland hit above freezing for what was likely the first time ever over the past two winters. Last year’s Arctic sea ice hit the lowest levels ever seen during March due to all the extra heat. And the warm temperature extremes appear to be deepening.

Now, as of mid February, a powerful Sudden Stratospheric Warming Event has again blown the Polar Vortex off kilter — weakening it and enabling warm air to flood into the Arctic even as colder air is displaced southward over Canada, the Western U.S. and Europe. Translating to the surface, this train wreck in the upper level winds has driven the extreme polar warming events of the past 8-10 days even as cold air invasions have overtaken Europe and the U.S. East experiences record-breaking heat.

The polar warming event is still ongoing. And it is expected to deliver another blow to an Arctic environment that typically experiences -30 degree Celsius temperatures this time of year. For another major warm wind invasion is forecast to drive above freezing temperatures over the North Pole by this weekend. Strong south to north winds along an extreme ridge in the Jet Stream are predicted to push 1-2 C temperatures (or approximately 55 F above average temps) over the North Pole on Saturday and Sunday.

(High amplitude Jet Stream wave predicted to drive North Pole temperatures to above freezing by Sunday. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Though rare during December, above freezing temperatures at the North Pole during February are practically unheard of. The period of February through April should be a time of strengthening and thickening ice ahead of melt season. But during 2018 this appears not to be the case. The ice instead, in key regions, is being delivered with serious setbacks which is greatly retarding this year’s typical Arctic Ocean ice formation.

If this most recent polar warming event emerges as predicted, it will provide yet one more powerful blow to an already greatly weakened Arctic sea ice pack during a time of year when extents and areas should be reaching their peak. And that’s bad news for both the Arctic and global environments.

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49 Comments

  1. nickreality65

     /  February 21, 2018
    Reply
    • So you can’t tell the difference between the North Pole and the entire region above the 80 degree north latitude line? Seems like a serious cognitive disability to me. May want to get that checked out.

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    • And now he’s linking a known climate change denier and calling it science…

      Looks like a perma-ban is in order. Farewell, Nick and take your misinformation elsewhere.

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    • This is fun. The climate change denier troll just started a thread. We can go all day long with this:

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    • Arctic report card by NOAA shows that Arctic is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the world. That’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the scientifically illiterate Nick.

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      • Tigertown

         /  February 22, 2018

        The Arctic is experiencing early problems on a large scale this year, There is no denying.

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    • Missed the first, trying again.

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    • Continuing the thread of incontrovertible evidence of massive, ongoing Arctic warming…

      Though the actual trend has not followed a pure exponential (as depicted above), the path of significant Arctic sea ice melt is a clear one.

      Over longer term time scales:

      Average for January:

      Trend for September (extent):

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      • Hilary

         /  February 22, 2018

        Just stitched this same September graph onto my latest piece of arctic inspired textile art, I called it ‘Arctic meltdown’. Sorry but I cant manage to post images here!
        Hilary

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  2. kassy

     /  February 21, 2018

    Interesting months ahead…

    ASI poster wayne has a post comparing today to 1988.
    http://eh2r.blogspot.nl/2018/02/a-different-arctic-in-30-years-very.html

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  3. Andy_in_SD

     /  February 21, 2018

    There is not much time left for any chance of a recovery this winter. Hopefully the summer melt is not the “new normal” but rather a reduced melt, abnormally reduced melt (cloud cover or otherwise). If it is the “new normal”, then what remains of multiyear ice will get hammered, and the ocean will soak up a lot of heat degrading next winters freeze further.

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    • Some discussion on this by sea ice experts presently on the twitter feed. General conclusions are that pattern switch to cooler temps is on the way. But with the deep withdrawal of ice extending so late into season, any refreeze will tend to be thin with less snow cover than is typical. This would hint at rather reduced resiliency for spring. How that would jibe with the typical pattern for cloudier April-July periods is yet to be determined. But we do look like we’re heading toward record low or near record low sea ice Maximum in 2018 (similar to 2017 ranges at best). Of course, it’s all still highly uncertain so please take with a grain of salt. But present trends don’t look great.

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      • paul

         /  February 22, 2018

        Please excuse my ignorance Robert but is the aforementioned cloudier April July period a ‘normal’ weather feature usually seen over the past decades? If so, is it possible that it won’t occur this year, or in the near future that the ‘new normal’ may usher in?

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        • To the contrary, cloudier April-July is a rather new feature. Likely due to increased water vapor in the Arctic. There’s a slight and probably temporary negative feedback that helps preserve sea ice during that period by reducing insolation. On net, more water vapor would also tend to increase polar amplification during fall and winter. And we would ultimately see more of a knock-on effect come summer. But the timeframe for this and even the early observations are somewhat speculative.

          The clear trend, however, for the past 3-4 years has been for warmer winters and somewhat cooler early summers. This has loaded the ice melt dice for winter, while somewhat retarding ice melt during the warmer months. If this happens again, it will limit damage to the summer ice. But the longer-term, overall, trend is downward. Furthermore, weather has become more of a factor during summer. In other words, any counter-trend break would be rather harmful to the summer ice considering how weakened it has become during freeze season.

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        • Andy_in_SD

           /  February 22, 2018

          It is probably an unknown, not enough data, too much uncertainty to be able to forecast that with any accuracy.

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      • paul

         /  February 23, 2018

        Thanks for the explanation. It’s one more recent large scale weather alteration and in that respect worrisome whatever it’s results.

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  4. kassy

     /  February 21, 2018

    LOL. I typed some more comments on my above post then deleted them so it took a while and then i saw the comments.

    The situation looks bad. I am only an amateur but there is really no reason why more heat will not travel north along the same paths wrecking the last few months of ice growth which would set us up for a really bad year. Especially if some regions start with no ice at all. That means all the energy that used to be reflected is absorbed and all the energy that went into melting ice is also going into heating up the weather.

    If the early damage is bad enough no cloudy summer is going to help because there is just not that more to preserve.

    If you have been watching this since the nineties this is pretty shocking. Models were cruder, computer time was scarce compared to today and predictions were more optimistic. First serious melt would be more like 2040.

    Our knowledge has improved since that time and the growth in carbon emissions in the nineties was quite spectacular. 2012 was interesting and a couple of years after that started of bad but cloudy summers helped the ice.

    Of course it is still early 2018 but this set up looks bad.

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    • So the pattern typically changes in March/April. Or it has over the past 5 years or so.

      IF the present pattern remains in play later, then there will be serious trouble. But warming at the lower latitudes tends to increase T deltas between Equator and Pole during spring, which can flatten out the Jet Stream and reduce pole-ward energy transfer.

      Something to watch. But as with last winter, this winter has been quite bad fore sea ice.

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  5. Vaughn An

     /  February 21, 2018

    There have been extensive discussions about the current state of the Arctic on Neven’s Sea Ice Forum as well:

    https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,2141.0.html

    Even more troubling, there is a closer to normal amount of ice in the Sea of Okhotsk and Baffin Bay. The Sea of Okhotsk has had normal to colder than normal temperatures because there have been northerly winds from Siberia. Baffin Bay has had relatively normal temperatures plus the Nares Strait has been dumping some of the oldest and thickest ice from the Arctic Basin and the Lincoln Sea into the Baffin area. Both the Sea of Okhotsk and Baffin Bay areas typically melt out during the summer melt season so normal or extra ice in these regions is not of great consequence to preserving Arctic Sea Ice. The ice in these regions also appears to be at the expense of lack of ice in the Bering Sea and along the “Atlantic Front” where the lack of ice is of much more consequence to preserving Arctic Ice.

    Incidentally, this has also caused colder than normal temperatures and late snowfalls in western Oregon and western Washington this month as well. When I explain the reasons for this late snowfall in this area to my friends they do at least seem interested in the reasoning.

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  6. Erik Frederiksen

     /  February 22, 2018

    According to a paper published yesterday in Nature, for every 5 years we delay in addressing this problem, we could add a meter of sea level rise by 2300.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-02985-8

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  7. islandraider

     /  February 22, 2018

    It takes a tremendous amount of heat energy to complete a phase change in solid water: 80 Calories of heat energy is necessary to melt 1-gram of ice at 0C into 1-gram of water at 0C. If you apply that same 80 Calories of heat energy to 1-gram of water at 0C, you will heat that 1-gram of water to 80C.

    When the ice is gone, when the phase change is complete, all that heat will go into the oceans, warming the waters rapidly. This is the scenario that is unfolding.

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    • Shawn Redmond

       /  February 22, 2018

      Just casual observational opinion.
      All though this is true I suspect it doesn’t quite tell the whole story. When there was a larger volume of multi-year ice it would have a stronger cooling effect. 4+ year old ice would have a cooler core temperature than 0c and covered a much larger area just 30 years ago. We are almost out of multi-year ice floating on the ocean. That leaves most of the multi-year ice on land. These piles are being eaten into buy warmer waters underneath and warmer air above that doesn’t get the extra cooling effect from passing over or under multi-year ice. Having extent in the ball park of ” normal” summer or winter is not going to have the same cumulative effect as the old ice would.

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    • This is one factor of many that are now in play.

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  8. wili

     /  February 22, 2018

    More on the US East Coast heat wave robert referenced in the comments above:

    “This is super nerdy, but a testament to the truly weird weather pattern happening today across eastern North America.
    595 dm heights = unusually high even for mid-summer.
    It’s sort of like seeing a snowstorm in July. Completely out of character for the atmosphere.”

    Like

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  9. Kiwi Griff

     /  February 22, 2018

    What is past Category five
    Catastrophic damage .
    Category six .
    Total destruction?

    The increasing strength, intensity and duration of tropical cyclones has climate scientists questioning whether a new classification needs to be created: a category-six storm.

    The Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale currently runs in severity from one to five, with five describing near-total destruction.

    But climate scientists meeting at a conference in the New Zealand city of Wellington have floated the idea of creating a category six to reflect the increasing severity of tropical cyclones in the wake of warming sea temperatures and climate change.
    Asian typhoons becoming more intense, study finds

    Climatologist Michael Mann, the director of the Earth system science center at Penn State University said the current scale could be viewed as increasingly outdated.

    “Scientifically, [six] would be a better description of the strength of 200mph (320km/h) storms, and it would also better communicate the well-established finding now that climate change is making the strongest storms even stronger,” he said.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/22/category-six-storms-cyclones

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  10. OT I know, but still a little humor about snowflakes
    The poor widdle snowflakes, all their fweinds ran away and deserted them. them nasty libtards must have done away with them

    http://metro.co.uk/2018/02/21/twitter-just-purged-russian-bots-trump-fans-crying-followers-vanish-7329362/

    Today, our thoughts and prayers are with the #MAGA brigade, as they howl in despair after half their Twitter followers vanished overnight.

    The reason? Those ‘cruel leftist libs’ at Twitter just purged a load of Russian bots, it seems – leading (hilariously) to right-wing Tweeters losing their sh*t.

    They think it’s some kind of left-wing conspiracy, whereas in fact, Twitter appears to have just deleted a bunch of non-existent fascists controlled from St Petersburg.

    Not seeming to realise the irony, many are sharing their agony online with the hashtag #TwitterLockout.

    Try not to laugh, please, now is not the time to gloat.

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    • I find it funny that for every one ‘follower’ a regular blogger/social media type loses in this long over-due action, the climate change deniers/MAGA supporters are losing ten. Kinda makes you realize how distorted social media impressions were by these bots. Also consider the impact on ‘trending’ topics.

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  11. Reblogged this on "OUR WORLD" and commented:
    Take the time to stroll down through the comments additional information.

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  1. Polar Warming Translates South as June-Like High Pressure Ridge Brings Record-Smashing Temperatures to Eastern U.S. in February | robertscribbler
  2. This Week’s Climate and Clean Energy Brief: Category Six Hurricanes, 8,000 Model 3s Produced, Bering Sea Ice Crushed, Electric Semi Savings, and California’s 2018 Snow Crash | robertscribbler

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