The North Pole is famous for many things. 24-hour darkness, polar bears, and of course, being the home of Santa Claus.
One thing it’s definitely not known for, though, is balmy, casual, “Hey, how cold is it? Do you think I need a light jacket?” type temperatures.
The north pole is freezing. It’s one of the coldest places on Earth. In fact, it’s sometimes colder than Mars. Mars!
But according to scientists, a storm the likes of which few have ever seen is about to raise north pole temperatures to as high as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
That’s about 50 degrees warmer than usual and is, according to meteorologist Eric Holthaus, “absolutely terrifying.”
It’s always comforting when a scientist uses the words “absolutely terrifying.”
The biggest reason behind that terror? Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. But if it gets warmer than that, ice melts. If the North Pole (which is covered in sea ice) begins to melt, less sunlight can be reflected off the ice. Thus, arctic temperatures rise even faster in a viscious cycle.
Also, if the continental ice sheets in that region start to melt, sea levels everywhere could quickly rise to dangerous levels.
The storm is on its way to becoming one of the strongest in the North Atlantic’s history.
It’s a “meteorological marvel” that has so far ripped through Texas in the form of brutal tornados, dumped record amounts of rain onto the Midwest, and is now moving on with the intention of flooding an already soaked U.K. … and bringing hoodie weather to one of the coldest places on the planet.
Hurricane-force winds and alarmingly low barometric pressure are pushing it into the category of “bombogenesis…” a term used to describe “meteorological bombs” that often devastate large areas.
One piece of good news, though: The 230-mile-per-hour jet stream that the storm caused in the North Atlantic actually shortened flights from New York to London to a little over five hours. (It usually takes six or seven.)
“This, more than any other extreme weather event in a remarkable year for the climate, feels like something new,” writes climate blogger Robert Scribbler.
And it has been a remarkable year for the climate. The east coast just had its warmest Christmas ever. Manhattan was over 70 degrees at noontime, and in Queens, people were surfing. Yeah. Surfing.
So what in the lukewarm world is going on here?
Well, as you can probably imagine, climate change is playing a big part.
According to many climate scientists, including Michael E. Mann of the Penn State Earth System Science Center, regular El Nino ocean temperature fluctuations are being made worse by human-caused climate change.
All of which is causing worse storms than usual.
Robert Scribbler writes that the strong winds and tropical air associated with the storm system “reeks of human-forced warming of the Earth’s climate.”
And although some remain skeptical of the correlation in this case, it’s hard to imagine a situation where record-breaking-ly warm air being hurled at the North Pole is a good thing.
The only positive outcome I can imagine is that Santa, who obviously spends his downtime hang gliding and reading mystery novels in Bermuda, might not have to go anywhere else this year. He could probably just have a barbecue in his backyard with all his reindeer.