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Temperatures at North Pole undergo 'heat wave'

December 24, 2016

Temperatures in the Arctic region have reached record highs in the past days. Climate scientists blame the development on global warming.

Norwegen Fjord
Image: Getty Images/AFP/O. Morin

Santa Claus might want to swap his sleigh for a surfboard, as the Arctic is experiencing record-breaking temperatures this Christmas. Scientists forecast that there could be up to a 20 degrees Celsius difference in temperature at the North Pole on Christmas Eve, making it much warmer than usual.

Earlier in December, the average temperature in the region was reportedly already five degrees Celsius higher. The Washington Post reported that the severe weather pattern for December was comparable to last year's freak heat wave in the Arctic Sea. The report specified that a weather buoy 90 miles (150 kilometers) south of the North Pole hit 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) earlier, causing ice to melt.

The same buoy and a number of neighboring buoys later registered steady but still unusually high temperatures of -7.5 degrees Celsius (18.5 degrees Fahrenheit). According to the Danish Meteorological Institute, the current temperature spikes are roughly comparable to the typical Arctic climate in May or September.

Melting ice sheets

Zachary Labe, a climate researcher at the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California in Irvine tweeted that in a few days, a large amount of ice had vanished from near the North Pole on account of the unusual weather pattern.

The Washington Post said that the Arctic had lost about 57,000 square miles (148,000 square kilometers) of ice in one day alone, basing its observations on data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. This loss of ice in itself is a major contributing factor in facilitating hot winds to travel farther and faster up north, according to the journal, "Nature."

Heatwave at North Pole, extreme chill in Siberia

The cold weather normally hovering over the Arctic region meanwhile has traveled south to Siberia, where extreme temperatures of -26 degrees Celsius (-15 Fahrenheit) in the capital of Novosibirsk, well below the average low for winter, are keeping families indoors.

The news came as various climate institutions reported 2016 to be the warmest year to date, including the UK Met Office and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO attributed the development to global warming, saying that the build-up of human-created greenhouse gases in the atmosphere was responsible for more frequent harmful heatwaves, droughts, floods and a total rise in global sea levels of about 20 centimeters (7.87 inches) in the past century.