The Peculiar Poles

Jan 29, 2016
North Pole ice pack


Rate this Post: 

Average: 4.6 (14 votes)

It’s official – the Earth has schizophrenia! The North Pole’s Arctic ice pack reached record lows.

Meanwhile the South Pole’s Antarctic ice pact reached record highs.


Click to expand image.

It’s official. This September 16, the Arctic ice shrank to the lowest level since record keeping began in 1979. Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)

While you wait impatiently for winter, hoping for a cooler winter than last year, it’s fun to think about where it gets really cold – the North and South Pole. They have had weather as weird as the US.

Not surprisingly, just as the US has had record warmth, so has the Arctic. As a result, this summer saw a record-breaking melting of the northern sea ice.

There still was a lot of sea ice floating around, an estimated 1.39 million square miles of the stuff. Unfortunately, this was 1.32 million square miles below the 1979 to 2000 average, almost half the normal amount.

Ten days later, the Antarctic, which was experiencing the end of the Southern Hemisphere winter, expanded to the greatest amount ever recorded. It reached 7.51 million square miles, about 20,000 miles more ice than average.

It’s official. This September 26, the Antarctic ice grew to the greatest level since record keeping began in 1979. Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center NSIDC

Oddly enough, the reason for both was strong winds. In the Arctic, a huge storm in early August shattered the sea ice and spewed it south into the warmer waters of the Pacific. Meanwhile in the Antarctic, the circumpolar winds that blow around the South Pole were super strong, trapping all the cold air and creating intense freezing.

All of this is part of a long-term trend. According to scientists, the Arctic sea ice has been shrinking for decades while at the same time the Antarctic ice has been growing. It hasn’t balanced out, however. The Arctic has averaged losing an area the size of Indiana each year while the Antarctic has grown an area the size of Connecticut each year.

Still, for those that worry about Arctic ice, there is some good news. Autumn is finally cooling off and freezing the northern ice pack. The melting ice cap makes headlines. No one reports on how much it grows. It’s growing back at a rapid rate. There may be some long-term concerns but, for now, the North Pole is once again becoming a winter wonderland.

Click to expand image.

The Arctic sea ice is growing again. (2012 is red.) Source: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) – International Arctic Research Center (IARC)


About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to "Weather Whispers" by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these blog posts. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

The record ice melt this

The record ice melt this summer was caused by WIND???!!! Don't you mean it was caused by global warming, or don't you believe in science?

What a disappointment to see a climate denier on the Farmers Almanac!

Oh no! Manbearpig is mad

Oh no! Manbearpig is mad cause you called the wind ,wind.

Wow, must be as bad as seeing

Wow, must be as bad as seeing a Lutheran posting on a Catholic website. So you can predict what is going to happen with a 4+ billion year old planet from 35 years worth of data? Did you say "science", but mean faith? I think you did. We just had one of our old fashioned winters. We hadn't had on for a while, quite a while, can I predict that global cooling is happening if next winter is colder? How about if the next 34 are? Would I still be a "denier" then". Do any of you true believers leave room for new data?

Just to see that monster

Just to see that monster storm hit the mid atlantic and northeast is heartbreaking. Out of all of the hurricane seasons- it had to be this one! hurricane season 2012.. Im so sorry. You will get through this! I live in Texas so we wont be impacted but my heart goes out to the folks on the east coast right now

Im sorry but this isnt about

Im sorry but this isnt about the poles. This is about Hurricane Sandy. Its a concern for us in Virginia and the rest of the northeast. Theyre saying we could have wind gusts of 50 mph and heavy flooding rains. Downed trees, power outages.. I saw enough of that after the June windstorm when we sweltered through 2 weeks with temps over 100 degrees without power. I dont want another repeat!! tell sandy to stay out to sea. When will the tropics stop? Our beautiful fall foliage will be ruined :( im loving the spectacular fall colors and after the heavy wind gusts it'l all be gone because were now at our peak. Thank you, so much Sandy. What are the chances the tropics will quiet down in November once the north atlantic waters become cold?

Omg! I feel you Brenda! 2

Omg! I feel you Brenda! 2 years in a row, Irene and now Sandy. I live in New Jersey and we're supposed to have heavy winds and flooding rains. Well, hey! atleast us in the east coast are in this together

Unfortunately the Atlantic

Unfortunately the Atlantic Hurricane season has a month more to go. The Atlantic got awfully hot and it is cooling down slowly. Stay safe Brenda, Lisa and everyone!

I'm old enough to remember

I'm old enough to remember that in the 1970's or 80's there was considerable talk of "global cooling". "They" were thinking of collecting soot and ash from the burning of coal and spreading it over the Arctic ice to hasten melting. Some of the same folks who were pushing for that seem to be the ones now talking about global warming. Go figure!

I'm old enough to remember

I'm old enough to remember the same global cooling fears.

A lot depends on when you start a trend. In the 1970s it was cooler than the 1960s but was still warmer than the Earth was in the 1870s.

What recorded weather data do

What recorded weather data do you base that statement on?

Is it global warming that

Is it global warming that caused the sea ice minimum? because looking over the past its been declining over the past few decades. Its concerning because it may be changing our weather too

It is caused by global

It is caused by global warming and scientists fight about how much of the warming is man-made. Satellite records show that the Earth is 0.8 degrees warmer than it was a century ago.

What satellite was it that

What satellite was it that recorded the earths temperature a century ago.

That was careless phrasing on

That was careless phrasing on my part! Current satellite records show that the Earth is warmer than the mass of land and ocean based readings indicated back in 1912.

We don't know enough yet to

We don't know enough yet to make these wild predictions about the earth, and influence policy the way you want to. We are spending a huge amount of resources that could be used to improve economies, better the lives of less developed people, which brings down the birth rate, which brings down the pressure on the environment. I think we all agree that pollution is bad. Let's do something realistic to deal with it.

Please do not assume that I

Please do not assume that I back any particular policy. This is a weather blog, reporting interesting and sometimes controversial scientific findings.

Like you, I agree that pollution is bad and realistic policies should be designed to control it.

If the arctic gets above

If the arctic gets above normal ice extent doesent that mean it will be another warm winter in the eastern half of the country again? Thats what happened last year. The winds changed and caused the jet to go wayyy up north and we had NO snow in Indiana. November 2011 started with a big warming trend and lasted through winter as well. The polar ice was above normal as well. We're all worried about if it will go crazy warm again because we're in a warm pattern now, AGAIN!! go away warm weather, you had your turn. Bring on the seasonable chilly temperatures

That is a pattern I have

That is a pattern I have seen, but there is no scientific research on the subject. (Sigh!)

I am being told by scientists that the wind pattern looks as if it will be very different this winter and the polar jet stream will be further south.

I hope the polar bears and

I hope the polar bears and the animals up north took advantage of the summer season because winter is coming. Temperatures will dip way down into the negatives. its not like winter here in the US. I hope someone blows me some cold air from the arctic into the ohio valley because these up and down temperatures are getting me sick. However, I think I should enjoy the warm 70s because the AO is going way negative into the first week of November, im hearing its going to get very chilly in the midwest/east coast again. Well be lucky to see this anymore until next spring! Thanks Evelyn; this is very nice blog

Thank you for your kind

Thank you for your kind words.

Its amazing how fast the

Its amazing how fast the poles are growing again. I saw that the arctic has grown more than 40% than what it was from the minimum. I saw this on a website that tracks the arctic ice extent. This is good news for santa clause and his reindeer! My son said he wants me to go to the north pole to tell Santa what he wants for Christmas!! hahahha! I already know whats on my christmas list.. I want more snow this winter in northern Virginia :) Well I have a long cold trip to make. Im super mom this year ha!

Hooray for fast growing polar

Hooray for fast growing polar ice and super-moms!

Ive been hearing that the

Ive been hearing that the melting of the poles will likely cause the NAO to trend negative for quite a while this winter, causing extreme weather from blizzards, snowstorms and a furocious winter. A negative NAO makes us have a cold winter while Canada will have the opposite effect.
Random question: When will the real cold air start to head south again? Our weatherman said theres indications showing the cold will be back in the eastern US by the end of October-November. What do you think? I enjoy the cold weather lol

Your weatherman sounds pretty

Your weatherman sounds pretty good.

I saw the time lapse on NOAA

I saw the time lapse on NOAA of the north pole ice pack. The winter of 2012 actually looked a little larger than I expected. Then as the summer came into full swing the melting really got started!! How warm did it get to make the ice melt that fast last summer? I also dont want to see the north pole vanish away either. Back 30-40 years ago everything seemed fine but the north pole isnt the icy wonderland it used to be! Who do us humans think we are to mess with the Earth like that? putting gasses into the atmosphere? The society we live in now is just "economy comes first, enviroment last" Im not blaming it on this country but sometimes we just dont realize what we're actually doing to the enviroment. I dont want to believe in global warming, but now we have no choice it seems like

Some reports show that the

Some reports show that the North Atlantic was 11 degrees Fahrenheit (6.1 degrees Celsius) hotter than normal in the Northwest Atlantic this fall. That's pretty spectacular.

Oh thank goodness! By winter

Oh thank goodness! By winter it looks to be more at normal levels. Its sad to watch the north pole shrink each year though, the areas that were once covered with snow and ice are gone and the 21st century was SHOCKING! Im 60 and ive noticed a significant change. I dont want to watch the polar ice melt but theres nothing we can do. Now that were tilting away from the sun the ice can now grow without the strong summer sun. Come November, the sun will set and wont be seen again until March. Winters there are in total darkness and the ice keeps growing as the winter ages on

Sometimes it is surprising

Sometimes it is surprising how quick it grows and/or shrinks. Last winter it was larger than the 1990s average area, then it crashed this summer. That August storm was a monster.


+ a 4-season guide to raising chickens!

You will also be subscribed to our Almanac Companion Newsletter

The Almanac Webcam

Chosen for You from The Old Farmer's Store