The Arctic has been experiencing a major heat wave
Published Saturday, December 24, 2016 10:00PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, December 24, 2016 11:19PM EST
Santa Claus may need to trade his cozy red velvet suit for a pair of rubber waders.
According to researchers with World Weather Attribution, a startling heat wave saw temperatures in the typically frigid Arctic rise more than 15 degrees Celsius above average in November and December.
“It's a very rare event,” Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, a Canadian environmental action organization, told CTV News.
“It's the darkest time of year. It should be when the temperatures are nearing their minimum and the sea ice is forming.”
A freak blast of warm air has been pushing Arctic temperatures up significantly over the past two months, researchers say. Forecasters are even expecting this Christmas Eve to be more than 15 degrees warmer than average at the North Pole.
This year, the Arctic region has been almost five degrees warmer than the 1951 to 1980 November and December averages. Sea ice coverage in the region is also at a record low. In December, sea ice coverage around the North Pole is typically 95 per cent, while this year it is only about 80 per cent. The ice that remains, moreover, is significantly thinner. Thinner sea ice, which has been replacing thicker multiyear ice over the past three decades, less effectively traps the warmth of the water below and also reflects less of the sun’s rays back into the atmosphere, creating even warmer Arctic temperatures and potentially limiting the ability for more sea ice to form in the future.
“The real concern here is if the ice disappears in the summer from the Arctic, is all that dark water and 24 hour day sun means that water will warm up a lot and the Arctic will warm up much more rapidly,” Gray said.
According to organizations like NASA, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the UN’s World Meteorological Association, 2016, moreover, is set to be the warmest year on record – the third year in a row our planet has earned this inglorious distinction.
But if a warming planet and melting Arctic weren’t enough, researchers may have a another fight on their hands, with many in the scientific community nervous that data supporting their findings on rising Arctic temperatures might be scrubbed from government servers under Donald Trump, whose administration will likely include climate change deniers like Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, who has been tapped to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, an unabashed fossil fuel industry ally, has devoted much of his recent energies posing legal challenges to President Barack Obama’s climate change policies and fighting the very agency that he has been picked to lead.
For his part, President-elect Trump has routinely dismissed climate change as ruse.
“It's a hoax,” he said during a campaign stop in December 2015. “I mean, it's a money-making industry, okay?”
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
“There’s a lot of critical info the government collects,” Michael Halpern of the Center for Science and Democracy told CTV News. “And without that information, we’re making decisions in a vacuum.”
Across North America, scientists are now backing up such information in that they care calling “guerilla archiving events.”
Critics, however, say that such moves are an overreaction.
“There is no evidence that the Trump administration plans to deep six any of this data or hide it,” Marlo Lewis, Jr. of the Competitive Enterprise Institute previously told CTV News.
Even if the incoming U.S. administration does delete such data, it will still be impossible to hide physical changes to the planet, like this year’s unprecedented Arctic thaw.
With a report from CTV News’ Omar Sachedina