Weather events behind late-2015 Arctic warmth, not global warming

Melting sea ice can form puddles on its surface. NASA

CCD Editor’s note: For those that don’t remember, many alarmist news outlets blamed the late-2015 warmth in parts of the Arctic on global warming. They even quoted climatologists who said this had climate change written all over it.

In the winter of 2015/16, something happened that had never before been seen on this scale: at the end of December, temperatures rose above zero degrees Celsius (32°F) for several days in parts of the Arctic.

Temperatures of up to eight degrees were registered north of Svalbard. Temperatures this high have not been recorded in the winter half of the year since the beginning of systematic measurements at the end of the 1970s.

As a result of this unusual warmth, the sea ice began to melt.

“We heard about this from the media,” says Heini Wernli, Professor of Atmospheric Dynamics at ETH Zurich.

The news aroused his scientific curiosity, and a team led by his then doctoral student Hanin Binder investigated the issue. In November 2017, they published their analysis of this exceptional event in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

In it, the researchers show how these unusual temperatures arose: three different air currents met over the North Sea between Scotland and southern Norway, carrying warm air northwards at high speed as though on a “highway.” (see illustration)

One air current originated in the Sahara and brought near-surface warm air with it. To begin with, the temperature of this air was about 20 degrees Celsius (68°F).

While it cooled off on its way to the Arctic, it was still above zero when it arrived. “It’s extremely rare for warm, near-surface subtropical air to be transported as far as the Arctic,” says Binder.

The second air current originated in the Arctic itself, a fact that astonished the scientists.

To begin with, this air was very cold. However, the air mass – which also lay close to the ground – moved towards the south along a curved path and, while above the Atlantic, was warmed significantly by the heat flux from the ocean before joining the subtropical air current.

The third warm air current started as a cold air mass in the upper troposphere, from an altitude above five kilometers.

These air masses were carried from west to east and descended in a stationary high-pressure area over Scandinavia.

Compression thereby warmed the originally cold air, before it entered the “highway to the Arctic.”

Poleward warm air transport

This highway of air currents was made possible by a particular constellation of pressure systems over northern Europe.

During the period in question, intense low-pressure systems developed over Iceland while an extremely stable high-pressure area formed over Scandinavia.

This created a kind of funnel above the North Sea, between Scotland and southern Norway, which channeled the various air currents and steered them northwards to the Arctic.

This highway lasted approximately a week. The pressure systems then decayed and the Arctic returned to its typical frozen winter state.

However, the warm period sufficed to reduce the thickness of the sea ice in parts of the Arctic by 30 centimeters (about a foot) – during a period in which ice usually becomes thicker and more widespread.

“These weather conditions and their effect on the sea ice were really exceptional,” says Binder.

The researchers were not able to identify a direct link to global warming. “We only carried out an analysis of a single event; we didn’t research the long-term climate aspects” emphasizes Binder.


Comments (3)

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    It was repeatedly and widely reported that the record high, “freakishly high” temperatures were STORM related events.
    That was acceptable…until you register the TWO years this occurred.
    Then you start postulating whether this is AG Warming Related.
    Does the Warm Pacific or the Cool N. Atlantic produce these storms with some regularity to produce significant ARTIC ICE LOSS….as we have clear pattern….both from Military Recon Photos of Arctic ice during WWII…and Cold war Eras….as well as Satellite data from the late 70’s to date, which SHOW a CLEAR CONSISTENT ICE LOSS.
    Google National Snow & Ice Data Center for accurate information on this ongoing occurrence…..

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      You’re cherry picking dates “satellite data from the late 70’s….”.

  • Avatar

    Spurwing Plover


    Rakooi must sound like the God Pidgeon from The Goodfeathers he mumbles and only Bobby can understand him

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