Arctic Unnaturrally Warm
February 1, 2017
The Arctic is so warm and has been this warm for so long that scientists are struggling to explain it and are in disbelief. The climate of the Arctic is known to oscillate wildly, but scientists say this warmth is so extreme that humans surely have their hands in it and may well be changing how it operates.
Temperatures are far warmer than ever observed in modern records, and sea ice extent keeps setting record lows.
2016 was the warmest year on record in the Arctic, and 2017 has picked up right where it left off. “Arctic extreme (relative) warmth continues,” Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with WeatherBell Analytics, tweeted on Wednesday, referring to January’s temperatures.
Veteran Arctic climate scientists are stunned.
“[A]fter studying the Arctic and its climate for three and a half decades, I have concluded that what has happened over the last year goes beyond even the extreme,” wrote Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., in an essay for Earth magazine.
At the North Pole, the mercury has rocketed to near the melting point twice since November, and another huge flux of warmth is projected by models next week. Their simulations predict some places in the high Arctic will rise over 50 degrees above normal.
One chart, in particular, is a jaw-dropping and emblematic display of the intensity and duration of the Arctic warmth. It illustrates the difference from normal in the number of “freezing degree days,” a measure of the accumulated cold since September.
The number of freezing degree days is far lower than any other period on record. Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and science writer who first posted the chart to Twitter, remarked it illustrated a “stunning lack of freezing power” over the Arctic. “This is happening now,” he added. “Not in 50 or 100 years — now.”
Yet the human influence on climate in the Arctic may be redefining the so-called natural variability, said Chip Knappenberger, a climate scientist at the Cato Institute. “Natural variability is itself is becoming increasingly ‘non-natural’ as it includes influences which themselves are shaped by anthropogenic activities,” he said.
Such a statement is notable coming from Knappenberger, who some consider a climate change skeptic and is unconvinced climate change is a serious problem.