For the second year in a row, temperatures at the North Pole are predicted to reach almost 50 degrees above normal in a heat wave ahead of Christmas. News of the winter heat wave comes after temperatures in November reached up to 36 degrees above the average for that time of year. The news also comes after a year of troublesome news in terms of climate change, including record lows for polar sea ice, which lost over 19,000 square miles in only give days during the November heat wave. The National Snow and Ice Data Center referred this loss as an “almost unprecedented occurrence.”
A range of factors have contributed to the unseasonable heat, including a storm off the coast of Greenland that is funneling warm air into the Arctic. The rapidly depleting sea ice that once acted as a buffer for warmer temperature patterns is now allowing more warm air to travel north towards the pole.
Last month, an analysis of these warming patterns conducted by scientists affiliated with the Climate Central outlet determined that the melting sea ice and heat waves would be “extremely unlikely … in the absence of human-induced climate change.”
The researchers warned that unless robust action was taken to address climate change, these unusual temperatures could become commonplace.
“If nothing is done to slow climate change, by the time global warming reaches 2 ºC (3.6 ºF), events like this winter would become common at the North Pole, happening every few years,” they wrote.
The new warnings come after a year of increasingly urgent warnings from scientists regarding climate change, and the World Meteorological Organization has projected that 2016 is likely to top 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Last month, an Arctic Resilience Report was released by researchers, highlighting 19 different “tipping points” that would have disastrous effects if polar melting continues at the current rate.
“The warning signals are getting louder,” said Marcus Carson, lead author of the resilience report, speaking to the Guardian.