Arctic Warming Record Set In 2015

Arctic warming set a new record in 2015 according to Weather Channel Associate Editor Ada Carr. Temperatures in the Arctic, which is centered at the North Pole and extends into North America and Eurasia, reached 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the average temperature for the month of September. Temperatures for the region have been recorded since 1900. This is the highest temperature on record.

The Guardian reported earlier this year that, among other worldwide impacts, arctic warming influences our weather. Simply stated, they say "that weather patterns can get 'stuck.'" A paper whose authors are from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and from the University of Potsdam explains that, because the Arctic is warming more quickly than the rest of Earth, summer zonal winds have weakened. This results in fewer or less intense storms, which means warm weather persists for longer than usual, which means extreme heat and drought are more likely. Weather in the fall and winter is also impacted by arctic warming. The warmer region puts more energy into the atmosphere in late fall/early winter and can weaken the jetstream.

Arctic warming may also be impacting our weather via the jetstream according to Science Daily. In reference to last year's winter season in the U.S. and UK, they stated,

"Some scientists have suggested that warming Arctic temperatures contribute to weaker upper level westerly winds and a wavier jet stream. This wavier path may have caused cold weather conditions to stall over the eastern seaboard and midwest United States during recent winters, according to these theories."
This BBC report gives a basic explanation of this phenomena.
Weather Channel reports two other direct impacts this warming trend has to the arctic region. The first is the level of sea ice, which forms when the water of the Arctic Ocean freezes. Levels have been recorded since 1979. They were at their maximum level in February and their lowest levels in September. The February maximum was the lowest ever recorded, as was the September minimum. This diminishing level threatens the welfare of walruses in the area as it means they have less land on which to mate, give birth, and just get out of the water. Because of this, walruses have begun crowding onto smaller beaches or traveling to Alaska to find land.

Weather Channel digital editor Robert Martin reported in October that larger mosquitoes will soon populate the Arctic as a result of climate change. Martin states that, according to a Dartmouth College study, arctic warming will result in the mosquito population doubling and their lifespan extending, which means they will grow to larger sizes than ever seen before. Animals living in the Arctic travel to remote areas to escape the pests. With the forecast changes in the mosquito population, the Weather Channel editor reports that animals will be forced to do so more often and for extended periods of time, which could wreak havoc on the animal population.

Weather Channel
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]Weather Channel's Ann Hauser in November reported an opposite observation at the other end of the earth, the Antarctic. Ms. Hauser reported that satellite data indicated an increase in mass of both sea and land ice. This was indicated by recent analysis by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Asked about the discrepancy between this analysis and recent assessments of Antarctica, Jay Zwally, a glaciologist with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center stated in a press release,
"We're essentially in agreement with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge in the Antarctic Peninsula and the Thwaites and Pine Island region of West Antarctica. Our main disagreement is for East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica — there, we see an ice gain that exceeds the losses in the other areas [due to snowfall]."
He added that losses will exceed the recent gains within a few decades.

Weather Channel's Eric Chaney also reported last month that scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center indicated that the recent dramatic change in sea ice levels could also simply reflect a "return to normalcy" following very high levels in the first part of 2015.

[Photo courtesy of Bernhard Staehli/Shutterstock]