Warm Winter Events in Arctic Becoming More Frequent, Lasting Longer

The North Pole is breaking records with more winter warming events that are lasting longer, according to a new study. 

The research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, analyzed winter air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean from 1893 to 2017. While winter days with temperatures above -10 degrees C (14 degrees F) are not unusual in the Arctic, since 1980 researchers have recorded an extra six such events a year, each lasting 12 hours longer on average. 

Observed Arctic winter warming events.

Observed Arctic winter warming events. GRAHAM ET AL

The shift is accompanied by other evidence of Arctic warming, say scientists, including a record temperature of 2.2 degrees C (36 degrees F) in the Central Arctic in December 2015, the warmest ever recorded there from December through March.

The study attributes the increase in warming events to a rise in major storms in the Arctic, which brings warm, moist air from the Atlantic. ”The warming events and storms are in effect one and the same,” explained climate scientist Robert Graham, lead author of the new study. 

The study does not address what is causing the increase in major storms in the Arctic, but recent research shows that reduced ice cover and shifting weather patterns due to climate change may increase storms’ frequency and impact, Graham added.