Avatar_023/Shutterstock.com

A weather buoy near the North Pole just hit melting point

This is bad.

BEC CREW
23 DEC 2016
 

A weather buoy floating 144 km (90 miles) south of the North Pole registered 0.4 degrees Celsius (32.7 Fahrenheit) yesterday, and if the North Pole follows suit as expected, it will have officially hit melting point.

Temperatures in the Arctic are now 30°C (54°F) above normal for this time of year, because according to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, the region should be around -30°C (-22°F). 

 

This is the second time in the past five weeks we’ve seen such a steep rise in temperatures, and it’s like nothing we’ve seen in more than half a century.

"In reviewing historical records back to 1958, one cannot find a more intense anomaly - except following a similar spike just five weeks ago," Jason Samenow reports for The Washington Post.

Back in November, researchers gave everyone pause when they reported that temperatures near the North Pole were an unheard of 20°C (36°F) warmer than average.

At the time, the Arctic was in the midst of polar night, when the Sun hardly ever rises. This was supposed to be when the region gets really cold, allowing for expanses of thick ice sheets to form after the warmer months.

But this year, we got much higher temperatures than the average during polar night, and while new sea ice started forming, it did so at a much slower rate than usual.

 

As Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), said in November:

"In parts of Arctic Russia, temperatures were 10.8 to 12.6°F [6°C to 7°C] above the long-term average. Many other Arctic and sub-Arctic regions in Russia, Alaska, and northwest Canada were at least 5.4°F [3°C] above average.

We are used to measuring temperature records in fractions of a degree, and so this is different."

Fast-forward to now, and we’re seeing it all happen again, thanks to a freak blast of warm air sweeping over the Arctic on Thursday, and record low levels of sea ice.

According to The Washington Post, preliminary data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre indicate that the Arctic lost about 148,000 square kilometres (57,000 square miles) of ice in the past 24 hours.

That's enough ice to cover the entire state of Illinois. 

While these figures still need to be independently confirmed, we do know that sea ice off the coasts of both Antarctica and the Arctic hit record lows in November. As of December 4, we’d lost 3.76 million square kilometres of the stuff - more than the total area of India.

"If nothing is done to slow climate change, by the time global warming reaches 2°C (3.6°F), events like this winter would become common at the North Pole, happening every few years," said research organisation, Climate Central.

If an unusually warm North Pole stressing us all out just before Christmas is giving you some serious déjà vu, you're spot on.

While the past couple of months have seen unusually rapid spikes in temperature, this isn't the first time the North Pole has hit melting point. An almost identical event occurred this time last year, when the North Pole crept over 0°C... in winter.

Strap in, everyone. We've got some weird times ahead.

More From ScienceAlert