Arctic air warming, but North Pole not turning to slush

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The North Pole is melting according to many news outlets. But Walt Meier, a research scientist for NASA and a co-author of NOAA’s 2015 Arctic Report Card on Sea Ice, said that’s not quite accurate.

“I’ve seen stories on that and they’re kind of misleading,” he said. “What they’re basically saying, there’s a really strong low pressure over Iceland and what that’s doing, that’s funneling warm air around the low and up into the Arctic and into the North Pole and the air temperatures are slightly above freezing.”

A buoy near the North Pole recently recorded a high temperature of 33 degrees.

Meier said temperatures are generally much lower this time of year.

“You’re normally are minus twenty, minus 30 degree Celsius up at the North Pole at this time of year. So that’s a really anomalously warm weather system that’s moving through there,” he said.

According to both NASA and NOAA scientists, 2014 was the warmest year since 1880, with 2015 on track to be even warmer.

The anomaly of warm air funneling up from Iceland has caused some of surface melt at the North Pole. But, Meier clarifies, the North Pole hasn’t turned to slush yet.

“When you have temperatures like that, you would have some surface melt, but you know, it’s still ice covered,” he said. “You still have probably a good couple meters or more, you know, six to eight feet of ice out there at least.”

The low pressure causing the spike in temperatures at the North Pole is the same weather system that recently led to blizzards in the southwest, tornados in Texas, and flooding in the Midwest. The system is expected to move off the pole by next week, bringing temperatures back down to the normal twenty-five below.

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Emily Russell is the voice of Alaska morning news as Alaska Public Media’s Morning News Host and Producer. Originally from the Adirondacks in upstate New York, Emily moved to Alaska in 2012. She skied her way through three winters in Fairbanks, earning her Master’s degree in Northern Studies from UAF. Emily’s career in radio started in Nome in 2015, reporting for KNOM on everything from subsistence whale harvests to housing shortages in Native villages. She then worked for KCAW in Sitka, finally seeing what all the fuss with Southeast, Alaska was all about. Back on the road system, Emily is looking forward to driving her Subaru around the region to hike, hunt, fish and pick as many berries as possible. When she’s not talking into the mic in the morning, Emily can be found reporting from the peaks above Anchorage to the rivers around Southcentral.