It’s a shocking 50 degrees above normal, and warm enough to melt ice.
Image via Flickr user Moyan Brenn
If you’ve been waiting for something really creepy to happen before you (or your country) do something about climate change, look no further. Slate meteorologist Eric Holthaus is calling this storm “the scariest part of this season’s weird weather”—scarier, even, than the crazy downpours and tornadoes that have ripped through the southern and midwestern United States over the past few days. Holthaus is talking this week’s freak storm at the North Pole, which will push temperatures as high as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Keep in mind: It’s late December and dark 24 hours a day at the North Pole right now,” Holthaus writes. “The typical average high temperature this time of year at the North Pole is about minus 15 to minus 20 degrees. To create temperatures warm enough to melt ice to exist in the dead of winter—some 50 or 60 degrees warmer than normal—is unthinkable.”
To put that in even greater perspective: This Wednesday the North Pole will be warmer than West Texas, Southern California, and even portions of the Sahara.
Holthaus reached out to a team of Arctic weather experts for his story, and could not find a single one who had seen North Pole temperatures above freezing at any point between December and April.
“This, more than any other extreme weather event in a remarkable year for the climate, feels like something new,” he writes.
As always, keep in mind the perennial scientific wisdom on climate change: It takes time and study to link solitary weather events to the greater phenomenon of anthropogenic global warming. But as the science blogger Robert Scribbler notes in a post cited by The Atlantic: “At this point it is not practical to wait for us to achieve perfect knowledge. And, in fact, we have more than enough indicators at this time to show that something is quite dreadfully wrong.”
Convinced, and looking for something you can do about it? In early December, during the United Nations’ climate summit in Paris, The New York Times put out a handy guide for everyday people who want to take action against climate change. A few of their tips: Be mindful of the emissions created by the production (and transport) of your food, take public transit, and avoid buying that second car, if you can help it.