Cold Spells Contrast With Arctic Warmth

Things are heating up where warmth is least expected.

March 22, 2018
North Pole

The end of winter in North America brought chilly weather in many regions, and the cold and snow in Europe made news headlines. But the most unusual weather this winter is going on at the North Pole—with exceptionally high temperatures at the Arctic. Things are heating up where warmth is least expected.

The cold spell in the Northern Hemisphere is unusual, perhaps, but not exceptional.  In general, cold waves are becoming less frequent. However, the warmth in the Arctic is extraordinary. During the month of February, temperatures surged into the mid-30s F—which is more than 50 degrees warmer than normal.

Keep in mind that at the North Pole, the Sun set on December 21, on the solstice, and would not rise again until the start of spring on March 20—a 3-month-long night. The normal temperature at the North Pole does not rise to freezing until late May and never rises above the 30s, even at the peak of summer.


The average temperature for the entire region above 80° north latitude rose to its highest February level since measurements began in 1958; this is also likely to be the highest temperature there in hundreds or even thousands of years.

According to Zack Labe, a climate scientist working on his PhD at the University of California at Irvine, “No other warm intrusions were very close to this. I was taken by surprise by how expansive this warm intrusion was.”

Although this is the most extreme example of polar warmth in winter, unusually warm weather has occurred there much more frequently in recent years than in the past. Robert Graham, lead author of a study published last July by the Norwegian Polar Institute, notes that this type of winter event occurred only four times in the decades from 1980 to 2010, “but has now occurred in four out of the last five winters.”


Meanwhile, some 400 miles south of the North Pole, the northern tip of Greenland has already been above freezing for 61 hours in this calendar year (as of late February), shattering its previous record for hours above freezing through April, which was set at 16 hours in 2011.

Although North America and Europe have had their share of cold weather this winter, most of the Northern Hemisphere has had average temperatures higher than normal, and this has resulted in the lowest extent of wintertime Arctic ice cover ever recorded (see Fig. 1).

And while 2017 was not as warm a year as 2015 or 2016 when averaged across the entire Earth, most locations experienced above-normal temperatures, including nearly all of North America (see Fig. 2).

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Reader Comments

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Global warming

As a lay person - just wondering - Have we had global warming since the ending of the ice age.- and before that, did we have global cooling to start the ice age??? Isn't a large part of global warming a natural phenomenon??

The sun

The solar effects on global warming the Earth's magnetic affect beng altered by forces not understand the influence of is being driven by the influence of money, and the observations we watch are not being reported with the same exhuberance of say people driving cars. America is clean air into Gudalahara Mexico and take a deep breath you will understand the air quality of Southern California to be influenced by prevailing winds from our southern neighbor...but such facts do not negate the sun and the magneticshift taking thankful for every moment you share with your neighbors and turn off the lying news. Your mood will change if you stop to accept reality...

North pole

Well, rumor has it, that the north pole is making a beeline for Siberia faster than expected, at 10% per decade now and just heard NASA scientists say it is now moving faster than that. The South pole has left Antarctica and is now heading north towards the Indian Ocean. This would explain the erratic weather patterns across the globe and storms. I suspect things will get worse before better. We should all be having a conversations about this but instead, MSM and other sources are hiding the truth from the public. No fear, be prepared, stay safe.


Spoken like a true 0bserver. Just remember that you're talking about magnetic north, not true north.

I don't like the fact that they are basing this off of 60 years of data with an "exception" coming 20 years into their data and an exponential increase since 1980 with last 5 years having the biggest increase. However, that is just judging the information in this article and not looking at data as a whole since 1958. Cherry picking data to fit your conclusion is always a bad thing and lets all be honest that if these climate scientist didn't fit the square data into the circle conclusion, they would lose their funding. We've regressed in science because of this structure in general. How sad.


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