Big Melt

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North Pole Rises Above Freezing

March 20 is normally close to the coldest season at the North Pole, but an extraordinary thaw swelled over the tip of the planet this year. Analyses show that the temperature warmed to the melting point as an enormous storm pumped an intense pulse of heat through the Greenland Sea. Temperatures may have soared as high as 35 degrees, reports the U.S. Global Forecast System model.

Such extreme warm intrusions in the Arctic, once rare, are becoming routine, research has shown. A study published in Geophysical Research Letters in July 2017 found that since 1980, these events are becoming more frequent, longer-lasting and more intense. Study author Robert Graham, from the Norwegian Polar Institute, says, “Previously, this was not common. It happened in four years between 1980 and 2010, but has now occurred in four out of the last five winters.” The events are related to the decline of winter sea ice in the Arctic, with last January’s the lowest on record.