Publication Date December 1, 2016

Impact of Unusual Temperatures in the Arctic Remains Uncertain

Arctic
Summer sea ice melts in eastern Greenland. Photo: Flickr

For much of the past two weeks, large areas of the Arctic have experienced unusually high temperatures. The weather follows record-low ice extent in October and November. Is this unusual, and how will it impact Arctic sea ice extent?

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Jennifer Francis, research professor for marine and coastal science at Rutgers University, explains that the low ice extent this fall meant more heat was absorbed and contained in the Arctic Ocean, reducing the temperature difference between the Arctic and lower latitudes. This likely resulted in a “very wavy jet stream that helped transport extra heat and moisture from lower latitudes northward into the Arctic.” The moisture allows more clouds to form, which in turn trap heat, further amplifying the warming.