A Changing Arctic Continues to Surprise

June 22, 2015

maine0622westSalon:

Any associations you might have with Alaska being a generally chilly place, actually, were belied by last month’s heat wave: with average temperatures 7.1 degrees above normal, the state had its hottest May in 91 years of record-keeping. Here, via NASA’s Earth Observatory, is what that deviation looked like:

alaska0615

North American land surface temperatures from May 17–24, 2015, compared to the 2001–2010 average for the same eight-day period. Shades of red depict areas that were hotter than the long-term average; areas in blue were below average for the week. White pixels were normal, and gray pixels did not have enough data, most likely due to excessive cloud cover.

Meteorologists attributed the unusual heat to a “kinked jet stream that is sending air masses in a more north-south flow than the more typical east-west direction” — a pattern that may be connected to two typhoons in the Pacific.

In the long-term, the problem gets much scarier. Thanks to climate change, the state, with the rest of the Arctic, is currently heating up at twice the rate of lower latitudes, and its weather, as one state meteorologist, who was only sort of joking, put it, is “broken.” Earlier this year, Slate’s Eric Holthaus did a deep-dive on why that’s happening:

Alaska’s recent surge of back-to-back warm winters comes after a record-snowy 2012, in which the National Guard was employed to help dig out buried towns. Then, about two years ago, something in the climate system switched. The state’s recent brush with extreme weather is more than just year-to-year weather variability. Alaska is at the point where the long-term trend of warming has begun to trump seasonal weather fluctuations. A recent shift toward warmer offshore ocean temperatures is essentially adding more fuel to the fire, moving the state toward more profound tipping points like the irreversible loss of permafrost and increasingly violent weather. If the current warm ocean phase (which began in 2014) holds for a decade or so, as is typical, Alaska will quickly become a different place.

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Readers also may remember the early arrival of wild fires in Siberia this past spring – creating surreal video images like this one:

maine0622east

For the last few months, maybe the only place in the arctic where temperatures were below normal, was Greenland. I can attest to how cold the last few weeks were there.

But now, Greenland is catching up…

greenlandmelt0615a

maine0626

Stay tuned, have some pretty good stills and video from the Dark Snow Camp.

2 Responses to “A Changing Arctic Continues to Surprise”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Aren’t this and 24142 the same post?


  2. […] Salon: Any associations you might have with Alaska being a generally chilly place, actually, were belied by last month’s heat wave: with average temperatures 7.1 degrees above normal, the state had…  […]


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