MIDWINTER NORTH POLE -- NEAR MELTING POINT

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21 december 2016

North Pole to warm to near melting point this week: 50 degrees above normal

By Andrew Freedman, Mashable, December 21, 2016

It's happening again: The temperature at the North Pole is projected to spike to around the melting point, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit, on Wednesday into Thursday, despite the complete lack of sunshine that far north in December.

Such temperatures would be about 50 degrees above average for this time of year, exceeding the color scale on some weather maps. (Typically, air temperatures at the pole don’t start periodically rising above freezing until at least May.)

In other words, this is not normal. But it's a fitting conclusion to a year of unprecedented global warming milestones in the Arctic.

The reason for what would qualify as a heat wave at the North Pole is a combination of factors, led by a series of storms curving from the Atlantic side of the Arctic toward the Pole, dragging mild air on a moist, southerly air flow with them.

Record low levels of sea ice in the Arctic are also contributing to the record high temperatures, along with a weakened polar vortex that has pulled the most frigid air out of the Arctic and redistributed it into North America and Eurasia.

If this situation seems oddly familiar to you, it's because a nearly identical event occurred in December 2015, causing alarm over a melting North Pole in media outlets.

This year's event is just as anomalous, and it comes as scientists have been raising new alarms about the pace and extent of Arctic climate change. The North Pole warmup also brings questions about whether such extreme warming events, transient as they may be, are occurring more frequently or are becoming more severe.

This warmup is taking place amid the Arctic's warmest year since records began in 1900, according to an international scientific assessment released on Dec. 13. A persistent pattern of anomalously warm conditions (warm for the Arctic anyway) across the central Arctic, including the North Pole, has set up this fall and winter, partly in response to the second-lowest sea ice minimum reached in September.

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