Keeping in step with the record-breaking high temperatures that were experienced over the holidays, and over 2015 for that matter, the North Pole also saw unseasonably warm weather — with one projection showing the temperature going above freezing for six hours.
The same warming trend in Atlantic and Pacific waters that contributed to massive storm systems across eastern regions of North America and in northern Europe also pushed temperatures at the North Pole to the freezing mark, with Environment Canada reporting that an ocean buoy near the pole registered a temperature of 0ºC (32ºF) on Dec. 30. Seattle, a city with mild winter temperatures, was actually colder on the same day, at -1ºC (30ºF).
The average temperature for this time of year where the buoy is located is typically -20ºC (-4ºF). NOAA’s Global Forecast System models showed the temperature peaking at 0.71ºC for six hours for the same time period, warm enough for fresh-water ice to melt.
“We had a buoy report up near the [North] pole showing about zero degrees just north and west of the pole this morning,” reports Kirk Torneby, a meteorologist with Environment Canada. “It’s quite unseasonable and remarkable really.”
While above-freezing temperatures are not unusual for Arctic regions during the summer, this temperature spike is unusual in that the Arctic has not seen the sun in months, as it does not rise above the horizon in the region above the Arctic Circle during winter. While this temperature anomaly is expected to be short-lived, it does raise concerns over it’s potential impact on the formation of surface ice over the winter, ice that would normally reflect solar radiation back into space when the sun returns over the summer months.