Weather anomaly pushing North Pole temperatures above 0 C

A weather anomaly sweeping across the world could cause temperatures at the North Pole to reach nearly 4 C this week. A storm system hitting Greenland and Iceland, which already battered the southern United States, is to blame.

Average temperatures range from –13 C to –43 C this time of year

A weather anomaly sweeping across the world will cause temperatures at the North Pole to reach nearly 4 C this week.

A weather anomaly sweeping across the world could cause temperatures at the North Pole to reach nearly 4 C this week.

Texas, Australia and England are just a few of the regions that have seen a spate of extreme weather this month, including tornadoes, brush fires and flooding. Now, forecasters say the North Pole is seeing temperatures well above normal.

CBC North's resident meteorologist, Ashley Brauweiler, says the severe weather system that wreaked havoc in the U.S. and beyond is the reason. 

'Fluctuations are very normal near the poles, so it's not that it's abnormal, it's just abnormally warm,' says Ashley Brauweiler, CBC North's resident meteorologist. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

"We have temperatures above zero near the poles and that's because the jet stream is bringing that warm air from the south up and along Greenland and Iceland. While storms here are normal, the strength of the storm isn't," Brauweiler said.

"They're seeing the same storms that were affecting the southern [U.S.] states."

At the North Pole on Thursday, temperatures are expected to hit 3 C. On New Year's Day it will be nearly 4 C.

Average temperature in the area normally range between –13 C to –43 C this time of year. 

"Fluctuations are very normal near the poles, so it's not that it's abnormal, it's just abnormally warm," Brauweiler said.

North Pole hard to predict

Temperatures at the North Pole can be hard to predict, given that there are no weather stations to determine how accurate forecasts are.

Environment Canada meteorologist Kirk Torneby says they receive temperature reports from buoys floating on Arctic sea ice. They also use data from observation stations in the High Arctic, such as Alert and Grise Fiord — but even those stations may not capture the true weather picture.

"There's not really a really good, long-term record to compare it to," Torneby said.

He says a buoy reported 0 C about 300 kilometres from the North Pole Wednesday morning, but he believes the warm temperatures have already peaked. 

"That strong pull of warm air is starting to shut off," Torneby said. "I think the warmest temperatures are starting to fizzle out."

El Nino to thank?

The extreme weather this December has been blamed, at least in part, on El Nino, a phenomenon that occurs when water temperatures rise above normal across the central and eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator.

Brauweiler says it's hard to say whether the above-average North Pole temperatures are related to the El Nino, but it is possible.

"It very well could be linked to El Nino," she said, "because you've got the warm air in the southern states and then the jet stream, which acts as a conveyor belt, just draws that warm air up."

Large parts of the Northwest Territories are also expected to see unseasonably warm weather this weekend, with temperatures reaching -2 C in the Arctic coastal community of Paulatuk. 

In Yellowknife, temperatures will reach -5 C on New Year's Day, which is about 18 to 20 degrees above normal.

However, Torneby says a different system is to thank.

"Warm temperatures over western Arctic and Yukon are mainly driven from some warm air that's starting to build up from the Pacific Ocean," Torneby said.

"That is affecting all of western Canada, bringing temperatures quite above normal for this time of year."


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