A record winter warm spell in the Arctic
Scientists are growing increasingly alarmed by the unseasonably warm temperatures in the Arctic. It’s currently winter at the North Pole: The Arctic region hasn’t seen daylight since October and is usually a frigid minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit at this time of year. But a weather station at the northern tip of Greenland has seen a record 61 hours of above-freezing temperatures since Jan. 1, with the mercury rising to a balmy 43 degrees at one point. While the Arctic has become increasingly warmer in recent decades, this heat wave is particularly unusual, with average February temperatures exceeding norms by 27 degrees—with some days 60 degrees above normal. “This is an anomaly among anomalies,” Michael Mann, a climatologist at Penn State University, tells TheGuardian.com. “It is a suggestion that there are further surprises in store as we continue to poke the angry beast that is our climate.” The warmer temperatures in the Arctic have had a knock-on effect in Europe, causing an unprecedented cold snap that left large swaths of the region blanketed with snow last week. Warmer air and melting Arctic ice weaken the polar jet stream, the strong band of winds that forms at the point where balmy air from lower latitudes meets the frosty air of the Arctic. Weaker winds cause the jet stream to lose strength and become wobbly, allowing the cold air normally trapped in the Arctic to descend farther south.