Europe is experiencing a cold winter this year. But where we used to take cold weather for granted -- the North Pole -- something wierd is going on. Jonathan Watts reports that:
The North Pole gets no sunlight until March, but an influx of warm air has pushed temperatures in Siberia up by as much as 35C above historical averages this month. Greenland has already experienced 61 hours above freezing in 2018—more than three times as any previous year.
Seasoned observers have described what is happening as “crazy,” “weird,” and “simply shocking”.
At the world’s most northerly land weather station—Cape Morris Jesup at the northern tip of Greenland—recent temperatures have been, at times, warmer than London and Zurich, which are thousands of miles to the south. Although the recent peak of 6.1C on Sunday was not quite a record, but on the previous two occasions (2011 and 2017) the highs lasted just a few hours before returning closer to the historical average. Last week there were 10 days above freezing for at least part of the day at this weather station, just 440 miles from the north pole.
Climate scientists predicted these radical shifts in climate. But they thought those shifts would occur further into the future. What the pole is telling us is that the collapse of the Polar Vortex may be upon us:
The vortex depends on the temperature difference between the Arctic and mid-latitudes, but that gap is shrinking because the pole is warming faster than anywhere on Earth. While average temperatures have increased by about 1C, the warming at the pole—closer to 3C—is melting the ice mass. According to NASA, Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 13.2% per decade, leaving more open water and higher temperatures.
If the vortex collapses, we will experience what climate scientists call "warm Arctic, cold continents." Meanwhile, the oceans will continue to rise, flooding population centres that are at or just above sea level.
The evidence keeps piling up -- and we continue to ignore it.