It’s not normal, and it’s happening again.
For the second year in a row in late December and for the second time in as many months, temperatures in the high Arctic will be freakishly high compared to normal.
Computer models project that on Thursday, three days before Christmas, the temperature near the North Pole will be an astronomical 40-50 degrees warmer-than-normal and approaching 32 degrees, the melting point. On some forecast maps simulating Arctic temperatures, the color bar does not even go as high as predicted levels.
The warmth will be drawn into the Arctic by a powerhouse storm east of Greenland. The European weather model estimates its lowest pressure will be around 945 millibars, which is comparable to many category 3 hurricanes.
“That’s pretty intense,” said Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with WeatherBell Analytics. Maue explained that depleted sea ice cover east of the Nordic Sea helps create a passageway for warm air to surge north uninhibited. “You have more real estate available to advect the warm and moist air northward,” he said. Arctic sea ice levels are at a record lows. In November, the Arctic usually gains ice, but over a period of five days it saw 19,000 square miles of ice cover vanish, which NOAA called “almost unprecedented”.
Zachary Labe, a doctoral student researching the Arctic at the University of California-Irvine, said that the lack of ice in this region has allowed ocean temperatures to warm to levels well above normal.
“The warm ocean acts as a buffer to keep the air temperatures from getting colder,” Labe said.
Air temperatures in the Arctic above 80 degrees north (latitude) have been much warmer than normal since roughly September.