The high temperature in the North Pole Wednesday matched Connecticut’s low
The North Pole is getting a taste of the warm late-December temperatures that have caused such havoc in the United States.
Thanks to the same low-pressure system that produced blizzards in New Mexico, tornadoes in Texas and flooding in Missouri, the North Pole was more than 40 degrees above the seasonal average high on Wednesday, according to computer models.
However, it barely scratched the freezing surface; the highest the temperature got was around 31-33 degrees, according to weather computer models. There are no weather recording stations in the North Pole, so computer models are the closest predictors we can get.
Dr. Ryan Maue, a research atmospheric scientist who works at the well-respected WeatherBELL weather analysis company, showed the temperature range with graphics from those weather models here:
Some estimates had predicted the high temperature would reach 40 degrees Fahrenheit, substantially warmer than the usual late-December highs of -10 degrees F.
One of the most shocking things about the usually high temperatures is that we’re just past the winter solstice, so it is dark 24 hours a day in the North Pole at the moment.
Here is a list of temperatures in the North Pole since 1979. Since 1948, when the temperatures were first recorded, the North Pole has only climbed above freezing in December three times, Weather Underground blogger Bob Henson tweeted.
CNN Senior Meteorologist Brandon Miller points out that two strong weather systems — the low-pressure mass that’s moved through the U.S. and northern Europe, and a high-pressure system over Siberia — helped pull warm air from southern Europe and northern Africa.
“Because of the strength of the two systems, it’s allowing that air to travel farther north than it normally would,” he said.
The storm has been dubbed Storm Frank, and wreaked havoc with rain and winds over the UK, northern Europe and the Arctic Circle. Air traveled in a clockwise direction around the high-pressure system and counterclockwise around the low, so the two systems next to each other pulling air from the same direction caused a vacuum-like scenario, Miller says.
Neither system is uncommon this time of year, but their power — and the result of the combination — is unusual, he added.
Nevertheless, the North Pole high is strictly a temporary phenomenon, with temperatures already returning to normal.
What’s important to monitor is whether the warming becomes part of a pattern that reduces sea ice in the Arctic — something scientists are watching closely.
“Some climate models predict an ice-free Arctic at least part of the year in the coming decades,” Miller said. “If you’re going to have an ice-free Arctic and you’re going to have big melts in the summertime but also limit ice recovery in the winter, you’re going to have to have events like this happen.”
He continued, “If you have a lot of these events, especially with strong winds that can push that sea ice around and cause some vulnerabilities, if this is a pattern of things to come, it could really become worrisome for the stability of the Arctic.”
With additional reporting from CNN.