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OUT OF THIS WORLD | Earth, Space and Everything In-Between - a daily journey through weather, space and science with meteorologist/science writer Scott Sutherland

Arctic temps spike over 30 degrees in the midst of winter

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Friday, February 23, 2018, 4:15 PM - The Arctic is still mostly in the darkness of winter right now, but you wouldn't know it from the weather, as temperatures have skyrocketed across most of the region, and may go even higher in the days to come.

In a little over a week, temperatures north of Greenland, and towards the North Pole, have jumped by 20 to 30 oC, putting some areas above the freezing mark, even while they're still in the darkest depths of winter.

The weather station at Cape Morris Jesup, at the northern tip of Greenland, saw temperatures climb from near -30oC to a few degrees above zero, in a matter of a few days, and then roller-coaster between the -20s and above freezing twice since then.

Along with those spikes in temperature, Lars Kaleschke's tweet, above, also shows the large rift in the sea ice that opened up just north of Cape Morris Jesup, at the same time. Kaleschke is a professor of sea ice remote sensing at the Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability, at the University of Hamburg, in Germany.

This isn't just a local effect, either. As Zack Labe, climate scientist and PhD Candidate at the University of California, Irvine, shows below, the average temperature across the entire Arctic, north of 80oN latitude, is extremely high - 20oC higher than normal for this time of year!

As the map below reveals, while there are some regions of the Arctic closer to normal temperature, extreme warmth is intruding on the region from both sides - from Alaska and Siberia, and from the North Sea.

Temperature anomalies for Friday, February 23, 2018, compared to the 1979-2000 average. Credit: Climate Reanalyzer

Some of the temperatures in the core of that pink/white area, north of Greenland, are likely off the scale, at over 30oC above normal for that area, at this time of year.

This is not the end of it, either. Just watch the animations below - of temperature anomalies (degrees above or below normal) and actual temperature - to see this warm spell abate, only to be followed up by an even wider and more intense warm pulse.

Temperature anomalies from Feb 23 to Feb 28, 2018. Pay particular attention to the warm pulse that develops over Greenland and then hustles north. Image Credits: Climate Reanalyzer. Animation: Scott Sutherland

Temperatures from Feb 24 to Feb 26, 2018. Watch the region north of Greenland, as a lobe of above-zero temperatures - the shades of green, bound by the white line denoting zero degrees - pushes into the area, all the way to the North Pole. Image Credits: Climate Reanalyzer. Animation: Scott Sutherland

These are both forecast models, so the exact pattern of temperatures and temperature anomalies may change in the days ahead, however it's clear that these summer-like temperatures are not over yet for the Arctic.

What kind of impact is this having?

In addition to that large rift that developoed in the sea ice north of Greenland, this is contributing to the very slow rate of ice growth across the region, which currently has Arctic sea ice extents on their way towards yet another lowest winter maximum on record - the fourth such record low in a row.

Correction: A previous version of this article listed Lars Kaleschke as the lead scientist for Berkeley Earth. Kaleschke no longer holds that position, but is a physicist and professor at the University of Hamburg, in Hamburg, Germany. We apologize for any confusion.

Sources: Climate Reanalyzer | Danish Meteorological Institute | Lars Kaleschke | Zack Labe

Watch Below: Arctic sea ice gets younger and younger each year for the past three decade

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