Polar night has just engulfed the north pole in months of perpetual darkness; now the big story has to do with disturbingly warm Arctic air temperatures that have left the polar region a whopping 36 degrees Fahrenheit higher than average. What does that mean? Nothing good for the record-low sea ice levels, or anything else. In fact, climate scientists are now saying that “something has gone horribly wrong” with Arctic temperatures.
So where did the cold air go? As PBS reports, it appears that Arctic temperatures have risen as temperatures in Siberia have plummeted and the region is now engulfed in frigid Arctic air.
Scientists believe that the incredibly unusual warm arctic temperatures could actually be, in part, caused by the depleted sea ice, which currently sits at record-low levels. In addition, it is thought that arctic temperatures are being drastically (and possibly catastrophically) warmed by wetter-than-normal air being forced into the Arctic region by way of the jet stream.
Reportedly, the earth’s jet stream has entered into a new pattern in recent years, one that has been described by climatologists as a “big, wavy pattern.” This pattern, which has become something of the new normal, causes weather systems to move along the jet stream more slowly. This means that the weather in any given area may be around longer than ever before, something that could cause major problems in the Arctic.
The “big wavy” jet stream pattern has had a two-fold impact on weather both in the Arctic and elsewhere. For one, the patterns caused extreme weather to pop up more frequently around the globe; in addition, warm air is moving with increased frequency to the Arctic, warming Arctic temperatures and generally wreaking havoc on a fragile ecosystem.
The behavior of the jet stream has caused a vicious cycle which has made the problems it is causing even more pronounced. As more warm air moves to the Arctic pole, the increasingly warm temperatures in the Arctic close the gap between varying jet stream temperatures and cause the big wavy jet stream to turn even wavier.
“The sea ice is at a record low right now, for this time of year, that’s one thing. And why it’s so low — again, there’s so much heat in the upper ocean in these ice-free areas, the ice just can’t form right now. The ocean’s just got to get rid of this heat somehow, and it’s having a hard time doing so.”
While many don’t pay much mind to Arctic temperatures, the truth of the matter is that what’s happening up there has a massive impact on the entire world. Drastically increasing arctic temperatures do more than simply melt ice and threaten the habitat and even the continued existence of Arctic flora and fauna, they factor into the frequency of dangerous extreme weather across the globe.
If the trend of warming Arctic temperatures and jet stream changes continues in its current direction, North America will undoubtedly be in the crosshairs for some potentially catastrophic weather. It could cause a winter weather pattern that could force cold air (that should remain in the Arctic) down the east coast of the United States and America, causing an unprecedented Arctic cold snap.
Even more potentially devastating could be what this winter’s warm Arctic temperatures do to the future of Arctic ice. Levels are already at unprecedented lows, and the Arctic is already gripped in a vicious weather cycle that is making the problem worse. If Arctic temperatures don’t cool substantially and soon, it could signal a tipping point for Arctic ice; a continued trend of extraordinarily warm Arctic temperatures could mean that next year’s Arctic ice will be almost non-existent.
[Featured Image by Coldimages/Thinkstock]