The past two months have shown marked high temperatures in the Arctic, alarming scientists. According to the Dr. Jeremy Mathis, director of the Arctic Research Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), November measurements showed more than 35 degree Fahrenheit increases over averages in certain areas of the Arctic. Mean temperatures at the North Pole were 23 degrees above normal. Temperatures have been increasing, but the Arctic temperatures have increased at least twice as fast as the global average.

As ice coverage decreases, more warming can occur because there is less ice to reflect the sun’s rays and more dark water to absorb them. While some of the warming van be linked to El Nino, those effects are in addition to an obvious warming trend.[1]

As a result, there was a later than average “freeze-up” of ice in the Arctic Ocean, and the concern is that this leads to a record-low ice coverage (extent). Temperatures of this nature a very rare, but scientists say they are becoming more common and are influenced by anthropogenic climate change.

According to a new study, November 2016 sea ice growth “saw a retreat that was virtually unprecedented in nearly 40 years of satellite records.” Typically, 95 percent of the Arctic is covered by sea ice by December, this year, 80 percent was.[2]

The study used simulations of the climate, both current and before “widespread carbon emissions”. Their results showed that the chances of the temperatures we saw in the fall had increased from once every 1,000 years to once every 50 years.[3]

Dr. Mathis emphasizes that those who rely on hunting and fishing for food security should be very concerned, but changes in the far north will impact everyone. He added, “We need people to know and understand that the Arctic is going to have an impact on their lives no matter where they live.”

[1] Schwartz, H. (2016). Spiking Temperatures in the Arctic Startle Scientists. Nytimes.com. Retrieved 4 January 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/21/science/arctic-global-warming.html?emc=edit_nn_20161222&nl=morning-briefing&nlid=67708333&te=1&_r=1
[2] Walsh, J. E., Fetterer, F., Scott Stewart, J. and Chapman, W. L. (2016), A database for depicting Arctic sea ice variations back to 1850. Geogr Rev. doi:10.1111/j.1931-0846.2016.12195.x
[3] [1]F. Otto, D. Karoly, M. Macias-Fauria, G. Jan van Oldenborgh, P. Uhe, A. King, S. Philip, S. Kew, M. Allen and H. Cullen, “How rare were the unusually high temperatures around the North Pole in November–December 2016 and how were they influenced by anthropogenic climate change?”, World Weather Attribution, 2017. [Online]. Available: https://wwa.climatecentral.org/analyses/north-pole-nov-dec-2016/. [Accessed: 29- Dec- 2016].