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January Arctic Temperatures Peaked At 13 Degrees Above Average, Scientists Baffled

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The Arctic had experienced a particularly warm month in January as evidenced by the low amount sea ice it had during the period.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), air temperatures across the greater portion of the Arctic Ocean were recorded at 13 degrees above the regular average.

Bob Henson, a meteorologist at Weather Underground, reported that at the start of 2016, temperatures in the North Pole were pushed to levels beyond freezing point.

The NSIDC explained that this phenomenon was partly caused by a noticeable negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) during the first three weeks of January. The AO pertains to the various pressure patterns typically detected over Northern Hemisphere areas in high latitudes.

Sea ice refers to ocean water that freezes during the winter months then melts during summertime. The ice often reaches its largest extent in March and its smallest extent in September every year. The NSIDC is responsible for tracking developments in sea ice in the Arctic.

Scientists began monitoring sea ice measurements in the Arctic in 1979.

In its recent study, the NSIDC highlighted that the sea ice extent in January registered a monthly average that was 42,500 square miles less compared to the previous low recorded in 2011.

The agency said that sea ice is virtually non-existent in areas of the Atlantic Arctic, from the Barents Sea in northeastern Scandinavia to the Kara Sea in northern Russia.

NSIDC director Mark Serreze said that the previous winter was the strangest for the Arctic that he has ever observed.

The low amount of ice in the Arctic has begun to affect the local wildlife, such as walruses and polar bears. It could also have a negative impact on the weather patterns over the United States.

While the overall area covered in sea ice in the region shrinks and expands regularly with the changing of the seasons, it has been in steady decline over the past few years. Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) believe that this could likely be a result of global warming.

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Flickr 

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